MADISON – There comes a point in the season where an undefeated record quickly become somewhat of a mental burden for any wrestler.
Not for Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan.
UW’s 165-pounder and reigning Big Ten champion is 15-0 on the year and a perfect 3-0 in conference competition. But hot start doesn’t have him walking an emotional tightrope. Quite the opposite, actually.
“I don’t really think of my record, honestly,” Jordan said. “If I slip up, I’m not really worried about it. At this point in the season, I have good wins. It would almost wake me up, in a way. But right now, I think I’m wrestling well and I need to keep it going, but I’m not afraid to lose.”
The redshirt junior is ranked 16th in FloWrestling’s pound-for-pound rankings and third in his weight class.
Only Ohio State’s Bo Jordan and returning national champion Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State are ranked higher at 165.
In case his rankings and record weren’t enough to intimidate his opponents, the two-time All-American still feels he can be even better.
“I think I’m not quite at my potential yet,” Jordan said. “I don’t think I’ve wrestled my best. I’m working on stuff.”
When working on that “stuff” in the practice room, Jordan drills with a variety of partners. One of those counterparts is Badgers assistant coach Kyle Ruschell.
“He was a national team member. He’s the elite of the elite. I feel like if I can go with him, I can go with anybody,” Jordan said. “He’s been huge for me this year and I’m just trying to get as many matches with him as I can. He gives me a new feel. He’s just very good. He’s a great drill partner.”
During his time in Madison, Jordan has progressed from talented youngster to savvy veteran.
“In comparison to other years, I think I’m a smarter wrestler,” Jordan said. “I’ve learned how to handle matches.”
His head coach has seen him develop, too.
“I think he has grown with poise and position. He has gotten stronger,” Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis said. “But I think the biggest thing is that he doesn’t force things. I think it comes with maturity and experience.”
Contrary to what some may think, sometimes the pressure is on the hunter, rather than the hunted.
“A lot of guys aren’t going to wrestle him,” Davis said of Jordan. “Because if they wrestle him, he’s going to score points on them. So they are going to use a strategy, try to stall or try to fend him off a little bit.”
Jordan has been ranked higher than all 15 opponents he has faced this season. Many of them have attempted to employ a defensive plan similar to the one Davis described. In an effort to counteract that, Jordan has learned to be opportunistic on offense.
“When you wrestle with a guy who is not ranked as high as you, they tend to try and slow the match down,” Jordan said. “I have to really pick my spots because they are going to wait for me to make a mistake. So I have to create action.”
A scare against Penn State’s Geno Morelli gave Jordan a taste of what can happen if he is not the one pushing the pace. A last-second takedown helped him escape with a 5-4 win in, arguably, his closest call of the season.
“I think you saw that in the Penn State match,” Jordan said. “I kind of let (Morelli) dictate the match and it almost cost me the match.”
Since then, he has won his two matches by a combined score of 14-1.
Jordan and the Badgers resume action on Friday when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers.