MADISON – At end of last season, Andrew Crone wasn’t thrilled with where he stood.
Though he finished with a 13-7 record at 149 pounds, Crone saw only a handful of starts for the Badgers at the beginning of last year. By the conclusion of the season, he was out of the lineup completely.
“You never really like to not be fighting for a spot,” Crone said. “Last year really sucked because I thought I was the guy in the beginning. I didn’t have a very great year and I wasn’t the guy in the end.”
So, at the onset of this season, the redshirt sophomore made himself a promise.
“I told myself at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t going to let that happen ever again,” Crone said. “I just made sure that I got my opportunities and, so far, I’ve been doing my best to make the most of them.”
Crone set the tone early, with a 6-5 win over incumbent starter Rylan Lubeck in the team’s intrasquad dual back in October.
Since then, he has posted a 9-7 record and has been Wisconsin’s starter at 149 for all but two duals.
Last Sunday, Crone topped Illinois’ Kyle Langenderfer 8-6, avenging a 6-5 loss to Langenderfer in last year’s dual.
The victory was also Crone’s first win in Big Ten competition in three attempts this season.
“It was a really big win. I’m hoping to use it as momentum to get on a roll here,” Crone said. “The score was 8-6, but I feel like I definitely wrestled better than the score showed. I know if we wrestled again, it’s definitely not going to be 8-6. It’s going to be a lot more in my favor.”
The Delafield, Wis. product sees himself as “a completely different wrestler” than he was a year ago. Part of that transformation is a new-found dedication to cranking up the tempo.
“I’ve been pushing myself in practice and making sure that I’m always keeping a high pace, no matter what. That way, when I’m in matches, I’m always on guys, always pushing the pace,” Crone said. “I feel like that is a big part of my wrestling that has improved.”
Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis has also noticed an increase in Crone’s patience.
“He’s grown a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time watching video and changing his stance,” Davis said. “He’s letting things develop instead of trying to force stuff. That’s a big change for him.”
Crone is still in search of a signature win (or two) to add to his résumé, a résumé that needs a boost if he is going to end this season where he believes he can.
“This year, I definitely think I can make it on the awards stand (at the NCAA Tournament) and be an All-American,” Crone said. “I’m not ranked, but I’ve pushed the best guys in the country. I know I’m right there with those guys. The next few weeks will be my chance to beat a couple ranked guys and just get on a roll going into the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament.”
Davis sees Crone progressing toward his goal. But there’s still work to be done.
“He just has to keep doing what he’s doing now and if he keeps making the changes he’s been making, he’ll be fine,” Davis said. “You can’t hurry that.”
Not rushing the development process means the patience Crone is starting to exhibit on the mat must also translate to the practice room.
“I know what he wants to do,” Davis said. “You just have to take it day-by-day. When we get in the room, we’re going to do what we need to do in order to reach that goal. I think he’s beginning to understand that more and more.”
With five remaining duals on the schedule, Crone should get three matches against ranked opponents: Minnesota’s Jake Short (No.15), Central Michigan’s Colin Heffernan (No.11) and Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis (No.3).
Friday’s dual with Rutgers is scheduled to bring up a bout between Crone and Tyson Dippery (13-8), while Sunday’s showdown with Minnesota means a match against Short (10-6).
“I have big matches coming up with Rutgers and Minnesota,” Crone said. “Those are definitely matches I think I can, and should, win.”