After a little time to process, Wisconsin head wrestling coach Chris Bono offered up some perspective on his team’s showing at the SIU-Edwardsville Cougar Clash during his weekly press conference.
The Badgers finished second at the six-team event and crowned five individual champions on Saturday.
“To sprinkle in a tournament this time of year, it was good for our guys to learn to wrestle back-to-back-to-back matches,” Bono said.
The showing was a stark contrast to the results Wisconsin saw during its most recent dual against No. 1 Iowa.
“I was very, very interested to see how they were going to respond. And they did a great job,” Bono said. “Our emphasis this week was making sure you go out and get that first takedown. Our emphasis was making sure that you wrestled the full seven minutes and really to start [the offense] a lot earlier.
‘These guys got 1-1 matches at Iowa and they really didn’t start trying to go get an attack until 30 seconds left in periods. And it takes a while against a good guy to score. We did a great job of starting earlier, finishing matches, and wrestling the whole seven minutes.”
Bono pointed to Tristan Moran’s victory over then No. 5 Grant Leeth of Missouri in the 141-pound championship match as an example of the improved effort.
“Tristan Moran … was losing with a minute left in the match and he went and got his attack to win that match,” Bono said. “That’s very encouraging. The guys learned a huge lesson. We learned a big lesson at Iowa.”
Bono also gave praise to true freshman Eric Barnett (125). The Hortonville, Wisconsin product had his redshirt pulled last weekend after an injury to starter Michael Cullen created a hole in UW’s lineup.
Barnett proceeded to win an individual championship.
“I knew this year it would be hard to keep Eric out of the lineup,” said Bono. “A little injury to Mikey, and really kind of a big injury, really forced our hand to put Barnett in the lineup a little sooner than I’d like. He went out there … that first competition with that “W’ on his chest he wins the tournament.”
“The fans in Wisconsin know Eric and the fans around the country are about to get to know him. [I’m] very, very excited. Great kid. I love the little guy to death.”
In total, Barnett outscored his three opponents 29-8, including a 7-4 decision over Jayden Carson of Little Rock in the finals. A fine showing from the Badger who almost wasn’t.
“When we got here, he was committed to the University of North Carolina,” said Bono. “We went and got him. We were able to flip him and I’m really happy we did. Not just his wrestling talents but, him being in the room, him being around us. He’s a quirky little guy and I absolutely love him. I’m fired up to see him compete and see how far he can go.”
“He’s a competitor and he’s a winner. He’s won his whole life at every level and that’s all he knows,” Bono said. “I’m excited about his hustle. His effort was unbelievable. We just got to get better in a few areas and this kid is going to be a force at the national level.
Bono mentioned the absences of Cole Martin (149) and Johnny Sebastian (184) were part of a planned week off for the duo. He added that Sebastian, a sixth-year senior with a significant injury history, is on a “pitch count” as the coaching staff tries to keep him healthy.
“We’re excited to get those guys back for our dual against Kent State,” said Bono.
Badgers surge to No. 4 in Flo Rankings
UW climbed all the way up to the No. 4 spot in the FloWrestling team rankings this week.
The Badgers were No. 9 a week ago and are now projected to score 53 team points at the NCAA Tournament, placing them slightly ahead of No. 5 Arizona State, a squad projected to score 49.5 points.
Wisconsin sits 5.5 points behind No. 3 Ohio State, according to the latest team rankings.
Five Badgers are ranked individually by Flo.
Seth Gross continues to lead the way. He is slotted at No. 2 at 133 pounds. He’s also No. 7 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
Evan Wick maintains his grip on the No. 3 spot at 165. He dropped a spot to No. 13 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
Heavyweight Trent Hillger slips a position to No. 4, while Tristan Moran is up two spots to No. 8 at 141.
Cole Martin held steady at No. 14 at 149 pounds.
Johnny Sebastian fell out of the rankings at 184.
Amos to wrestle at Ironman this weekend
Wisconsin commit Braxton Amos is competing at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio this weekend.
The event, which is one of the most prestigious folkstyle high school wrestling tournaments in the country, begins Friday and runs through Saturday.
Amos, a standout at Parkersburg South in West Virginia, is currently ranked No. 2 nationally at 220 pounds by FloWrestling. He is also No. 2 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
He is projected to compete at 197 pounds for the Badgers.
A two-time Ironman champion, Amos was listed at No. 1 at 220 pounds when the Ironman pre-seeds were released earlier this week.
All of the action is available live on FloWrestling for FloPro subscribers.