Short-handed Badgers struggle at Midlands

The Wisconsin wrestling team was missing a handful of key members as the Badgers took part in the opening day of the 53rd annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. on Tuesday.

Wisconsin was without the services of top wrestlers Ryan Taylor (133), Isaac Jordan (165) and Ricky Robertson (174), among others and only had attached wrestlers in seven of 10 weight classes.

Earlier this month, UW head coach Barry Davis noted that he and his staff would discuss which wrestlers could benefit from training during the holidays rather than competing at the Midlands. According to Wisconsin officials, the trio of Taylor, Jordan and Robinson were held back in favor of additional training.

The absence of three prolific point scorers was noticeable as the seven attached and three unattached wrestlers posted a combined record of just 12-20 on the day. None of the 10 wrestlers were able to advance to second day of the tournament.

While none of UW’s representatives posted winning records, Cole Martin (141), Andrew Crone (149) and Ryan Christensen (184) each went 2-2.

Martin opened his tournament on a sour note with a 10-2 loss to No.13 seed Ian Nickell (CSU Bakersfield). However, Martin bounced back by pinning Alexander McKenna of Northwestern in in 2:45.

He then edged Jake Hodges (Northern Iowa) 3-2 before falling to Trae Blackwell (Oklahoma), 11-7.

Crone received a bye in the opening round and then bested Shyheim Brown (Maryland) 6-1.

Fourth-seeded Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) got the better of Crone in their third round bout, winning by major decision 9-1.

The meeting featured a pair of Wisconsin natives. Both Crone and Sueflohn wrestled at Hartland Arrowhead High School in the prep days.

Crone kept his tournament alive with a 7-4 win over North Carolina State’s Sam Melikian in consolation action.

A 7-6 loss to No.12 seed Joey Delgado ended Crone’s tournament.

At 184 pounds, Christensen got things rolling early. After receiving a first round bye, he topped Kanye MacCallum (Eastern Michigan) in sudden victory, 8-4.

In the third round, Christensen fell to No.2 seed Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) by a score of 3-1.

Christensen rebounded with a 13-2 major decision against Regis Durbin (Northwestern). He was then bested by Dane Pestano (Iowa State) 11-6 in his final match of the night.

Johnny Jimenez (125) was the only seeded wrestler for the Badgers. He was given the No.12 seed and posted a 1-2 record. He began his day with 10-3 win over Tristan Bundy (Grand View), but was upended by the No.5 seed, Joshua Rodriguez (North Dakota State), 10-1 in the second round.

Jimenez was bounced from the tournament following a narrow 7-6 loss to Kyle Akins (Buffalo) in consolation action.

Luke Rowh(141), Gabe Grahek (141), Jared Scharenbrock (157), Eric Peissig (197) and Brock Horwath (285) each went 1-2 for the Badgers.

Eli Stickley (141) was 0-2 on the day.

Following Day 1 action, the Badgers were in 24th place in the team standings of the 43-team event with 17.5 points. Iowa leads the team race with 96 points, 18 ahead of second place Nebraska.

Tuesday marked the first time Wisconsin wrestlers failed to post a combined winning record at a tournament this season.

Wisconsin returns to action Jan.8 when it hosts No.9 Nebraska in a Big Ten dual.