Throughout his career, Wisconsin’s Ricky Robertson has come painfully close to becoming an All-American.
The redshirt senior qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of his three non-redshirt seasons and has spent the bulk of his time in a cardinal and white singlet as a nationally-ranked wrestler.
He holds a 3-6 career record at the national tournament, with his best finish being a 2-2 showing in 2015.
No one would blame Robertson for being down or even panicking after missing the podium on three occasions. Instead, UW’s 184-pounder views his final season as his best chance yet to stand among the nation’s best.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a sense of urgency,” said Robertson. “Everything has accumulated this year, in a sense. I take past failures and past successes and hope to put it all together to figure out what steps I need to take to accomplish what I’d like to. I think being able to look at the past four years, I have a good plan set in place and hopefully that works out for me.”
Where does Robertson hope to be at season’s end? On the medal stand, of course. As high up it as he can climb.
“I definitely want to be an NCAA All-American. I’d like to at least be in the top three by the end of the year,” Robertson said. “Those are the high expectations I have for myself and hopefully throughout the season I can continue to grow and make that possible.”
Robertson opened the season ranked No.11 at his weight class by InterMat, the highest ranking of any Wisconsin wrestler.
He is tabbed No.6 by WIN Magazine, while earning a No.9 designation from FloWrestling and the No.12 spot at 184 by The Open Mat.
Though his early season rankings have him in position to be noticed, they are just speculation of what the rest of the year could hold. In order to reach his goals, Robertson must continually push forward.
“Consistency is the biggest thing. I’m sure some of the other guys have talked about consistency. We talk about it as a program,” Robertson said. “Just being consistent, accountable, holding yourself to a higher standard whether it’s in the weight room or in the wrestling room, giving a full 100 percent effort and doing everything that I possibly can.”
While consistency in his practice routine has been a key, Robertson’s position in the lineup has been anything but steady. During his tenure in Madison, he has been the Badgers’ starter at three different weight classes.
Robertson began his college career at 184 pounds, dropped to 174 for his redshirt sophomore season and then moved all the way up to 197 pounds last year. Regardless of weight class, each season ended with a trip to the NCAAs.
His ability to compete is more than just a mindset. His success at several weight classes has made it a matter of fact. With that in mind, Robertson is particularly comfortable with the weight he has chosen for his last run at a podium finish.
“I think I can compete at whatever weight class I’m at,” Robertson said after UW’s intrasquad scrimmage in October. “I think most would say 184 is where I’ve had the most success. I think you’ll be able to see that this year. I think it’s where I’m strongest and most comfortable. It’s going to be a really great year.”
So far, Robertson’s predication is correct. His 11-1 start to the season is his best as a Badger, surpassing his previous top mark of 10-2 his redshirt freshman season (the last time he wrestled at 184 pounds).
On Nov.19, he won an individual championship at the CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunner Open. He recorded three pins and a technical fall before topping No.12 Emery Parker of Illinois in the title bout 3-1.
Not only is Robertson winning at a career-best pace, his average margin of victory is increasing. In his 121 career matches as an attached wrestler, he has amassed 79 wins. Of those, 53 have been by decision (67 percent) meaning roughly one-third of his wins were “bonus-point” victories (pins, technical falls, major decisions).
This year, just three of his 11 wins (27.3 percent) have come via decision. Meaning 72.7 percent of his victories qualify as bonus-point wins.
But the season is young and the quality of competition is quickly increasing. This weekend, Wisconsin travels to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Robertson is one of 11 nationally-ranked wrestlers projected to be in his bracket. That includes five athletes who are currently ranked ahead of him according to FloWrestling.
Action begins Friday at 11 a.m. (CT).