Badgers dominate Kent State in home opener

MADISON — Wins in eight of 10 bouts propelled the Wisconsin wrestling team to a 42-6 win over visiting Kent State Thursday at the UW Field House. True freshman Eric Barnett got things jumpstarted for the fourth-ranked Badgers (7-1) with a pin at 125 pounds in the first bout of the night.

He topped Kent State’s Tomas Gutierrez by fall in the first period to give UW a 6-0 lead.

Barnett had a scoring chance halfway through the opening stanza that Gutierrez managed to worm his way out of.

On the restart, Barnett got right back to his offense and put Gutierrez on his back with a nifty little toss.

“I didn’t get a takedown on the first sequence, but I got right back up and got in his face and created a situation where I was able to capitalize,” Barnett said. “It’s great here though. I wanted to pump up the crowd right away as a first match here. It was my first opportunity to hear the crowd go crazy cheering for me, so I got it done.”

The pin set off a run of six consecutive Wisconsin victories.

Thursday’s only ranked matchup wasn’t much of a contest, as No. 2 Seth Gross took care of No. 22 Tim Rooney by technical fall 20-2.

Gross is now 10-1 on the year and 4-1 against ranked foes. His only loss came to No. 1 Austin DeSanto of Iowa back on Dec. 1.

Next came No. 8 Tristan Moran’s opportunity to get in on the action. He matched Gross’ effort and intensity with a tech fall of his own, besting Cory Simpson 17-1.

The Golden Flashes (2-5) showed signs of life at the beginning of the 149-pound bout as Kody Komara tallied the first three takedowns of the match to grab a 6-3 lead in the first.

Martin bounced back with a takedown of his own in the closing moments of the first to cut the deficit to one.

A rideout with some near fall attached gave Martin a one-point edge heading to the final frame. That’s where Martin picked up an escape and cashed-in on his riding time point to earn a 9-6 triumph.

“The key is a slow start. We’ve got to correct that. We’ve got a little stiffer competition, it’s hard to come back from two, three takedowns down,” UW head coach Chris Bono said. “But Cole’s a competitor, fifth-year senior, does all the right things, going to be in every match. His conditioning is unbelievable, and he did a great job at scoring in the last period. It’s huge to score at the end of periods. He did everything we preached. I’m very proud of Cole.”

Drew Scharenbrock got his first starting nod and he made the most of his opportunity. He topped Conan Becker by fall in 4:51 to push Wisconsin’s lead to 25-0 at intermission.

After notching the initial takedown, Scharenbrock got reversed. But the UW redshirt freshman scored a reversal of his own and fought his way to a fall.

“[Drew] came out and tried to run through the chairs. He didn’t even want to go around the chairs,” Bono said. “So, I knew he came out really fired up, and Drew is a competitor. First time wrestling in the field house. You could see there was a little bit of nervous energy, but Drew’s a competitor.”

On top of going 5-0 in the first half of Thursday night’s bouts, the Badgers also won the takedown battle 11-3, scoring first in four of five matches.

No. 3 Evan Wick clinched the dual meet victory for the Badgers with a technical fall at 165 pounds. He blanked Kade Byland 15-0.

Kent State finally got on the board courtesy of a decision from Andrew McNally. He topped Wisconsin’s Jared Krattiger 6-3 at 174 pounds.

The Badgers answered back in a big way with the help of Johnny Sebastian. The Northwestern transfer, competing in his first match with UW at the Field House, pinned Tyler Bates in 2:09.

Sebastian managed to get Bates on his back near the edge of the mat. After a bit of a tussle, Sebastian lugged Bates back inbounds and secured the fall. That made it 36-3 in favor of UW.

Another true freshman, Peter Christensen, also made his debut for Wisconsin on Thursday night. He dropped his match to Kent State’s Colin McCracken by a 6-1 final at 197 pounds.

Christensen found himself in a 4-1 hole after the first three minutes and was unable to recover.

“I’m not going to put a big judgement on one match,” said Bono. “As a true freshman rolling out in front of that crowd — a lot of nervous energy, and Pete’s going to be just fine.”

No. 4 Trent Hillger ended things on a sweet note for the Wisconsin faithful as he won by fall in just 1:46. It was the Badgers’ fourth pin of the night.

In total, UW recorded seven bonus-point victories.

“If we want to go to the Big Ten and national tournament and place high, we’re going to need tech falls and we’re going to need pins and we’re going to need major decisions,” Bono said. “That’s a point of emphasis tonight. That’s going to be a point of emphasis for our program.

“We want to go out there and make sure the crowd is enjoying themselves. But we also want to make sure, when we go to the national tournament, we’re going to go out there with the mindset that we’ve got to go get those extra points. This could be a very special team. I’m so excited and really excited about the bonus points that we did score tonight.”

The Badgers are back in action Dec. 29-30 when they travel to Illinois for the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships hosted by Northwestern.

No. 4 Wisconsin 42, Kent State 6 

125: Eric Barnett (UW) p. Tomas Gutierrez, 1:40

133: No. 2 Seth Gross (UW) tf. No. 22 Tim Rooney, 20-2

141: No. 8 Tristan Moran (UW) tf. Cory Simpson, 17-1

149: No. 14 Cole Martin (UW) dec. Kody Komara, 9-6

157: Drew Scharenbrock (UW) p. Conan Becker, 4:51

165: No. 3 Evan Wick (UW) tf. Kade Byland, 15-0

174: Andrew McNally (KSU) dec. Jared Krattiger, 6-3

184: Johnny Sebastian (UW) p. Tyler Bates, 2:09

197: Colin McCracken (KSU) dec. Peter Christensen, 6-1

HWT: No. 4 Trent Hillger (UW) p. Spencer Berthold, 1:46

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