MADISON - It was the kind of win that could provide momentum to quite a few Wisconsin wrestlers heading into the Big Ten Championships.
The Badgers capped their regular season by trouncing Northwestern 38-3 in a Big Ten dual at the UW Field House on Sunday.
Nine UW wrestlers recorded win in the lopsided affair, Wisconsin’s first home victory since the season opener against UW-Whitewater back on Nov.12.
“They’ve been wrestling better the last three or four weeks. It’s just kind of coming together right now,” UW head coach Barry Davis said. “The guys are on an upswing right now.”
The Badgers (4-8, 3-6 Big Ten) scored bonus points in three of the first four bouts of the afternoon.
Second-ranked Isaac Jordan set the tone for UW, winning by technical fall at 165 pounds.
After Ricky Robertson (174 pounds) won by decision, Ryan Christensen won by major decision over Regis Durbin, 14-1, at 184. The win was Christensen’s second victory over Durbin this season, both came by major decision.
Then came Eric Peissig’s dramatic win in the 197-pound bout.
Trailing 5-2 in the second period, Peissig was able to catch his opponent, Northwestern’s Jake Berkowitz, in a scramble. With Berkowitz caught on his knees, Peissig was able to lock up a throw and put Berkowitz to his back, ultimately winning by fall in 4:02.
“I got an escape there. I snapped him back down and I felt him come up the first time. I thought about hitting it, but it wasn’t quite there. I snapped him back down and he came back up. It was there, so I got it.”
Davis was pleased to see his sophomore grappler keep his cool during such an intense turn of events.
“The good thing is: when he hit it, he settled in,” Davis said. “He didn’t hurry. He didn’t rush it. He had plenty of time. That shows good poise.”
Peissig, who snapped a six-match losing streak with a win in the dual against Maryland last weekend, has now won back-to-back matches in conference competition.
“It really helps boost your confidence when you wrestle a bunch of ranked guys the first portion of the year and you finish the season up with a couple Big Ten wins,” Peissig said. “It’s really important. It feels good going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Brock Horwath kept the momentum rolling in UW’s favor with a 3-1 win over Conan Jennings and heavyweight. The redshirt senior scored a takedown at the buzzer to claim the victory on Senior Day.
“It’s nice. The biggest thing is leaving the Field House with a win,” Horwath said. “Senior Day is cool and all, but it’s bigger to not leave without a win.”
Horwath’s win made it 21-0 in favor of the Badgers at intermission.
Wisconsin picked up the second half where it left off as Johnny Jimenez (125) and No.12 Ryan Taylor (133) each won by decision. Luke Rowh received a forfeit at 141.
Taylor’s win helped him finish the regular season above .500 with a record of 5-4.
Northwestern (2-11, 0-8) got its lone win of the day at 149 pounds. Sixth-ranked Jason Tsirtsis topped Andrew Crone by decision, 4-1.
TJ Ruschell provided some final fireworks for the UW faithful by stomping Anthony Petrone 20-5 in the final bout of the day. With the win, Ruschell snapped a 10-match losing streak.
Wisconsin dominated the team takedown battle, scoring a total of 23 across the nine contested bouts while allowing just three.
“It’s actually a big moral boost,” Horwath said. “Starting out the year, we weren’t doing so hot. Now, finishing up with a win like this, I think it will give a lot of encouragement to the guys to keep pushing on.”
Now the Badgers must focus on the Big Ten Championships, which begin March 5 in Iowa City.
Fresh of his second straight conference win, Peissig has a new-found confidence.
“It’s a lot about draws in the Big Tens,” Peissig said. “I think I can wrestle with a lot of guys right now. If I wrestle well, I think I can end up at the NCAA Tournament.”
Horwath ended the conference season with a record of 3-6. Four of his conference losses came by two points or fewer.
“I was close with a lot of them, so I guess the biggest thing is to not give up that cheap takedown in the beginning. Then it’s a whole different ballgame for the rest of the match,” Horwath said. “After that first takedown, they kind of stop wrestling with me. So if I stay away from that first weak takedown in the beginning, then it should be a better match throughout.”
Davis is confident that all his wrestlers know what they need to do in order to be successful at the conference tournament.
“We have to make our own breaks,” Davis said. “They know riding, come tournament time, is critical. Riding, turning, scoring at end of periods, scoring on the edge of the mat, those are the small things you have to do, come tournament time, to make your own breaks.”
Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 3
165: No.2 Isaac Jordan (WIS) tf. Luke Norland, 17-2
174: Ricky Robertson (WIS) dec. Mitch Sliga, 5-2
184: Ryan Christensen (WIS) maj. dec. Regis Durbin, 14-1
197: Eric Peissig (WIS) p. Jake Berkowitz, 4:02
285: Brock Horwath (WIS) dec. Conan Jennings, 3-1
125: Johnny Jimenez (WIS) dec. Garrison White, 7-3
133: No.12 Ryan Taylor (WIS) dec. Dom Malone, 5-1
141: Luke Rowh (WIS) won by forfeit
149: No.6 Jason Tsirtsis (NU) dec. Andrew Crone, 4-1
157: TJ Ruschell (WIS) tf. Anthony Petrone, 20-5