Takedown battle key to potential turnaround

MADISON – When asked what it would take for his team to get back into the win column, Wisconsin wrestling coach Barry Davis smirked and said , “we have to score more points than the other team.”

While the coach’s John Madden-esque remark was simply a playful, off the cuff response, he’s not wrong. Scoring points, both individually and as a team, has been a problem for the Badgers this year.

In dual competition this season, Wisconsin’s 10 regular starters have scored 44 takedowns, while allowing their opponents to record 91.

Only three Badgers starters, Ryan Taylor (133 pounds), Isaac Jordan (165) and Brock Horwath (285), have scored more takedowns than they have given up in duals.

Taylor leads the team in dual meet takedowns with 11 (he has allowed six), Jordan has nine, while giving up only one and Horwath has five takedowns to his credit against three allowed.

Granted, there are other ways to score points and win matches other than takedowns. However, most teams that win the total takedown column on the stat sheet are also winning duals. A glance at Wisconsin’s performances in its four Big Ten duals (all losses) shows a team that is consistently losing that battle.

Penn State held a 23-3 edge in the takedown department when the two teams met back in December, while Nebraska won it 14-11 at the beginning of last month. A week later, Iowa scored 30 takedowns while holding the Badgers to just four at the Kohl Center. Illinois held a 16-10 advantage in takedowns last Sunday.

It’s an issue that everyone in the Badgers’ wrestling room is well aware of. Davis has been preaching the importance of going on the offensive.

“We’re getting better now, but it’s not enough. If we change that, it’s a difference maker,” Davis said. “Now, if you’re on top riding, you’re putting pressure on your opponents and that can turn things around.”

Wisconsin tallied four wins against Illinois on Sunday, its highest total in this season’s five matches against Division I opponents. It’s no coincidence that Sunday’s dual also marked the Badgers’ second-highest takedown total in that span

“I think a lot of what we’ve been doing these past couple weeks has been good for us,” Redshirt freshman Luke Rowh said. “I think our pace was a lot better (Sunday). I feel like guys were attacking a lot more.”

It’s likely the strength of Wisconsin’s opponents has factored in to the takedown disparity, as well. Four of UW’s five Division I opponents this year are currently ranked in the top-20 in FloWrestling’s dual rankings.

The road doesn’t get any easier, either. The Badgers travel to No.8 Rutgers Friday night before returning home to host No.16 Minnesota on Sunday.

As far as Rowh is concerned, he and his teammates just need to step it up.

“We need to get guys to be more offensive and get outside their comfort zone and take some risks,” Rowh said. “We have the talent. We just need to make sure we put ourselves in good situations.”