At the beginning of the season, redshirt freshman Evan Wick was given the tall task of replacing one of the most successful wrestlers in University of Wisconsin history.
His predecessor at 165 pounds, Isaac Jordan, was a four-time All-American, two-time Big Ten champion and a former NCAA finalist. Those are certainly big shoes to fill.
But Wick has quickly made his own name. In his first year in the lineup, he is 15-2 and boasts the highest winning percentage of any starter. He won an individual championship at the CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunner Open and placed second at the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
“Evan has provided a great spark. Him and [his twin brother] Zander both are great leaders with a great work ethic,” UW head coach Barry Davis said. “They understand the sport at a high level. We’re real pleased with those guys and the way they are progressing.”
Wick’s redshirt season provided the framework for his current success. Last year, he posted a 15-3 record and had more takedowns (60) and nearfall points (18) than any other unattached wrestler at UW. He also upended two nationally-ranked opponents en route to a fourth-place finish at the Midlands Championships.
“The experience and the preparation was good, using that redshirt year. It’s really hard to come in your first year in college wrestling. The par terre, top and bottom, it’s just so much different,” Wick said. “I think hand-fighting was probably a big key, just being able to move through different ties in a neutral position, really setting up my shots well and just determining what moves I really want to work on.”
These days, Wick is up to No. 6 in the InterMat national rankings at 165 pounds, the highest ranking of any Wisconsin wrestler.
There is a significant difference between being an unattached true freshman with potential and a solidified starter in the Big Ten Conference. But Wick gracefully embraces his new role.
“I think there is a little bit more pressure, but I think it’s a good pressure,” Wick said. “There is a little bit more intensity and excitement. We have a really close team here and everything is starting to pan out well for us. We have a lot of good things going on. Being part of the team, you are part of that momentum.”
Coming of age in the college wrestling world generally means developing rivalries. So far, Wick’s high-profile nemesis has been Michigan’s Logan Massa, a redshirt sophomore who placed third at the NCAA tournament last year, topping Isaac Jordan in the third-place bout.
Round 1 came at the Michigan State Open where Massa, then ranked third in the nation, picked up an 11-3 victory by major decision.
“I wasn’t really aware of what he was going to do. I think I wrestled him a little bit conservatively in that match,” Wick said. “I took him down right away and then I kind of backed off because I kind of expected more out of such a good wrestler.”
Earlier this month Wick turned the tables on Massa, earning an 8-4 decision over the Michigan standout in the quarterfinals of the Cliff Keen Invite. After reflecting on his first encounter with Massa, Wick noted the need to use his 6-2 frame to his advantage.
“I think what was key in that match was keeping my distance from him, picking when I wanted to get close to him,” said Wick. “I think the first time, I wanted to get in close. But he is a really good hand-fighter. He kept me close. He was heavy on my head and he tired me out. I knew that I am definitely a lot longer than him. I can keep him at bay then, if I want to, I can come in close.”
Following the win over Massa, Wick topped No. 9 Nick Wanzek of Minnesota in the CKLV semifinals 10-4. His run ended when he was pinned by No. 5 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) in the championship match.
Over 35 percent of his matches this season have been against ranked foes. Yet Wick is chomping at the bit for more high-level competition.
“I want to get my hands on a lot of those good guys,” Wick said. “I think that’s what has been good about the beginning of this season. I’m going to wrestle Isaiah Martinez who is a two-time returning national champion – Vincenzo Joseph who is a returning national champion. I’m going to wrestle Massa countless more times. I think getting my hands on those guys is going to be really good.”
Wick/Massa III could happen as early as Jan. 19 when the Badgers take on the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
“I know what he’s going to expect,” Wick said. “I’m a pretty versatile wrestler, so I think I’m just going to hit him with some different things.”
Badgers tab Bono new head wrestling coach
The University of Wisconsin wrestling team has a new head coach.
On Saturday, UW tabbed former South Dakota State front man Chris Bono as the 16th head coach in program history.
The nation-wide coaching search came to a head just hours after Friday night’s application deadline.
Hey #Badgers fans, we've got big news!
— Wisconsin Wrestling (@BadgerWrestling) March 24, 2018
Bono was named Big 12 Coach of the Year this past season and coached the first national champion in program history.
In the last six years, Bono has coached five All-Americans. The Jackrabbits have had at least one NCAA qualifier in each season under Bono’s guidance.
Prior to his stint in Brookings, Bono spent three seasons at the helm of Chattanooga. There he coached a pair of All-Americans and 19 NCAA qualifiers. The Mocs won three Southern Conference championships during his tenure.
Bono competed at Iowa State during his college days, qualifying for four NCAA tournaments. He won a national championship at 150 pounds and attained All-American status on three occasions.
In freestyle competition, Bono made the US world team on three occasions. He was a two-time freestyle champion and placed first at the World Cup in both 2002 and 2003.
Barry Davis resigns as head wrestling coach
Wisconsin wrestling head coach Barry Davis is stepping down at the end of the season.
That announcement came from the UW Athletic Department early Monday afternoon, just hours after the Badgers advanced seven of their 10 wrestlers to the 2018 NCAA Division I National Championships.
The move reportedly comes after a recent meeting between Davis and athletic director Barry Alvarez.
Davis, who has been the head coach at Wisconsin for the last 25 seasons, will remain onboard through the end of next week’s NCAA Tournament.
During his tenure, Davis has coached 26 All-Americans and three NCAA champions. He is the winningest coach in program history, sporting a career dual meet record of 234-172-11. This season, Davis guided the Badgers to a 7-5 dual record and a 4-5 mark in the Big Ten.
The veteran head coach reportedly met with the team this morning to inform them of the circumstances.
A timeline on the search for Davis’ replacement has not been announced. But a UW official confirmed that a national search will take place.
Associate head coach Trevor Brandvold and assistant coach Kyle Ruschell will remain on staff through the end of the spring semester to aid in the transition process.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Wisconsin wrestling upends No. 13 Illinois
A strong team effort lifted the No. 20 Wisconsin wrestling team to a 19-16 win over host No. 13 Illinois in a Big Ten Conference dual Sunday afternoon.
Though each squad one five matches, the Badgers were able to pull the upset due to some timely performances.
Johnny Jimenez got UW (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) off on the right foot as he upended No. 18 Travis Piotrowski 1-0 in the dual’s opening match at 125 pounds.
It was the first conference win of the season for Jimenez who is now 2-6, 1-3 as an attached wrestler.
The Illini (7-4, 6-3) earned decisions in the next two bouts to grab a 6-3 lead heading to 149 pounds.
That’s where Wisconsin’s Cole Martin recorded a key pin, winning by fall over Eric Barone in 5:15. Martin’s victory gave the Badgers a lead they managed to cling to for the remainder of the day.
Next up, No. 19 Andrew Crone scored his second win over a ranked opponent in a 48-hour span. The redshirt senior topped No. 20 Kyle Langenderfer 8-2 in sudden victory.
Crone is now 3-2 against Langenderfer at the collegiate level, including a 1-1 mark against him this season.
Illinois got back on track with a major decision from second-ranked Isaiah Martinez at 165 pounds. He topped No. 6 Evan Wick 14-6.
The match was the second in a string of three consecutive bouts against ranked opponents for Wick. He is set to face No. 11 Richie Lewis of Rutgers when the Badgers and Scarlet Knights tangle Friday.
Ryan Christensen restored order for Wisconsin with a major decision of his own at 174 pounds.
For the second straight dual, No. 9 Ricky Robertson faced a fellow top-10 foe. This time, he crossed paths with No. 6 Emery Parker.
Parker emerged victorious by a count of 9-4. That win brought the Illini back within three with two matches to go.
Sunday marked the second time the two had met this season. Robertson took the first meeting by a count of 3-1 in sudden victory back in mid-November.
Hunter Ritter pushed UW’s advantage to six points courtesy of a 3-2 decision over Andre Lee.
That meant Illinois needed a pin at heavyweight to tie the match and force the dual meet to be decided by criteria.
For a brief moment, in the latter portion of the second period, it looked like the Illini were about to get their fall.
Deuce Rachal was able to put UW’s Ben Stone on his back. But Stone fought to avoid the pin.
Facing a 7-1 deficit, Stone fought back to cut the deficit to two. While he fell 7-5, Stone’s loss by decision preserved the dual meet win for the Badgers.
Wisconsin returns home to finish out the dual portion of its schedule. The Badgers host No. 16 Rutgers Friday before squaring off with No. 22 Purdue Sunday.
No. 20 Wisconsin 19, No. 13 Illinois 16
125: Johnny Jimenez (UW) dec. No. 18 Travis Piotrowski, 1-0
133: Dylan Duncan (UI) dec. Jens Lantz, 5-2
141: Mike Carr (UI) dec. Eli Stickley, 10-4
149: Cole Martin (UW) p. Eric Barone, 5:15
157: No. 19 Andrew Crone (UW) dec. No. 20 Kyle Langenderfer, 8-2 (SV-1)
165: No. 2 Isaiah Martinez (UI) maj. dec. No. 6 Evan Wick, 14-6
174: Ryan Christensen (UW) maj. dec. David Rojas, 17-4
184: No. 6 Emery Parker (UI) dec. No. 9 Ricky Robertson, 9-4
197: Hunter Ritter (UW) dec. Andre Lee, 3-2
HWT: Deuce Rachal (UI0 dec. Ben Stone, 7-5
Badgers fall to No. 14 Nebraska
Visiting Nebraska won seven of 10 matches en route to a 24-10 over Wisconsin at the UW Field House Friday night.
The evening’s proceedings began at 165 pounds where No. 12 Isaiah White of Nebraska upended No. 6 Evan Wick by a count of 7-3 to give the Cornhuskers an early 3-0 lead.
UW’s Ryan Christensen (174 pounds) knotted the team score a match later as he edged Beau Breske 3-2.
The back and forth affair continued at 184 pounds. Seventh-ranked Taylor Venz got the better of No. 9 Ricky Robertson in their top-10 showdown. Venz’s 12-7 decision put No. 14 Nebraska (9-4, 7-2 Big Ten) back on top by three.
Wisconsin responded by way of Hunter Ritter who picked up a 9-6 win at 197 pounds to draw the team score back to even.
The Huskers grabbed the lead once and for all when David Jensen scored a pin at heavyweight, giving Nebraska a 12-6 lead at intermission.
That win sparked a five-match winning streak for the Huskers.
No. 19 Andrew Crone halted that run with an 11-3 major decision over No. 8 Tyler Berger. Crone scored 10 of his 13 points in the second period.
No. 20 Wisconsin (6-3, 3-3) heads to Champaign to take on No. 13 Illinois Sunday afternoon.
No. 14 Nebraska 24, No. 20 Wisconsin 10
165: No. 12 Isaiah White (N) dec. No. 6 Evan Wick, 7-3
174: Ryan Christensen (UW) dec. Beau Breske, 3-2
184: No. 7 Taylor Venz (N) dec. No. 9 Ricky Robertson, 12-7
197: Hunter Ritter (UW) dec. Eric Schultz, 9-6
HWT: David Jensen (N) p. Ben Stone, 1:33
125: Mitchell Maginnis (N) dec. Johnny Jimenez, 5-2
133: No. 19 Jason Renteria (N) dec. Jens Lantz, 11-4
141: No. 13 Chad Red Jr. (N) dec. Eli Stickley, 6-3
149: No. 10 Colton McCrystal (N) dec. Cole Martin, 7-4
157: No. 19 Andrew Crone (UW) maj dec. No. 8 Tyler Berger, 11-3
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