Badgers Wrestling Notebook: Previewing Penn State

The No. 9 Wisconsin wrestling team (10-3, 3-3 B1G) returns to the friendly confines of the UW Field House Friday night as it takes on No. 3 Penn State.

Penn State (8-2, 5-1 B1G) went 1-1 last weekend with a 19-17 loss at the hands of No. 1 Iowa and 40-3 victory over Maryland.

According to Wisconsin head coach Chris Bono, there wasn’t much knowledge to be gained from the Nittany Lions’ loss on Friday night.

“I didn’t learn too much because they looked awesome,” Bono said at his weekly press conference. “That’s what their program has been. Everybody has counted them out all year that they’re going to finish runner-up to Iowa. They’re a national championship-quality team. They are going to be competing for a national championship.”

The Nittany Lions boast ranked wrestlers at seven of 10 weight classes, including No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph at 165 pounds.

Joseph and Wisconsin’s Evan Wick (ranked No. 4) have not met in their college careers.

“They’ve got guys up and down the lineup that are animals. They’re proven,” Bono said. “We get to go in as the underdog. That’s the fun part. We’ve got nothing to lose. We get to go into our home arena in front of our fans, rested and wrestle a team that, they think they’re going to come in here and dominate us. This is the perfect situation for us to go in there and wrestle.”

Friday’s dual begins at 8 p.m. and will be aired live on Big Ten Network.

Krattiger and Watkins step up

Both Jared Krattiger (174) and Taylor Watkins (197) picked up key victories in Friday night’s dual against Indiana.

Krattiger snapped a five-match losing streak by pinning Diego Lemley in the first period of their bout.

Watkins earned a 6-1 win over Nick Willham to give the Badgers their first dual win at 197 pounds since Feb. 10, 2019.

And while both dropped narrow decisions in Sunday’s matchup with Purdue, Bono is still encouraged by the progress he is seeing from two of his big men.

“I think it’s huge because they can see that they can do it,” Bono said. “They haven’t won much but their schedules have been brutal. And they see that they can do it and you feel like it’s a reward for all the belief they’ve put in us and what we’ve said they can do and all the hard work they’ve put in.”

Bono hopes both athletes can build on the momentum they have created.

“Both those guys are pretty good. Both of them can wrestle,” Bono said. “Hopefully they have a little bit of confidence right now. I think their best wrestling is going to come for them in the next month and a half.”

Badgers in latest Flo Rankings

Six Badgers appeared in the latest FloWrestling individual rankings.

Seth Gross continues to maintain the No. 1 spot at 133 pounds. He is No. 4 in the pound-for-pound rankings.

Tristan Moran held steady at No. 4 at 141, while Trent Hillger remains No. 5 at heavyweight.

Evan Wick slid a position to No. 4 at 165 despite a 2-0 weekend. Wick is No. 13 in the pound-for-pound rankings.

Cole Martin dropped a spot to No. 13 at 149 after his upset loss to now No. 15 Graham Rooks of Indiana.

The biggest surprise of the week came at 184 pounds as Johnny Sebastian dropped eleven places to No. 22 after a pair of weekend wins.

The sixth-year senior earned a win by technical fall 20-4 over Jake Hinz of Indiana, Friday.

Sunday, he topped Purdue’s Max Lyon 4-3.

“I think he had an amazing weekend this weekend. Johnny Sebastian has not been able to put together two matches in a weekend in a very, very long time, for injury purposes,” Bono said. “He had two really, really good matches. He’s injury-free. Everything has been very cautious with Johnny, with how much he’s training and how much he’s competing. I think it’s going to pay off. He’s healthy. He’s fresh. He’s going to make a good run here at the end of the year.”

According to Flo’s website, here is the rationale for the significant drop:

“Johnny Sebastian also dropped. Plummeted in fact. But not because he lost either, or because we have anything against Sebastian in any way, shape, or form, but because this weight class is bonkers and Sebastian has only seen limited action this season, and when his resume is now compared to the rest of the division, his losses to [Owen] Webster and [Noah] Stewart counterbalanced by a paucity of quality wins necessitate a drastic lowering of his ranking.”

As an aside: I find it interesting that both Webster and Stewart were ranked behind Sebastian last week despite each having a win over him. It seems odd that it wasn’t worth “punishing” Sebastian for those losses last week. But this week was apparently the time to pull the trigger on utilizing that logic.

Oddly enough, Webster also defeated Hinz and Lyon this past weekend and also fell in the rankings.

I reached out to Andrew Spey, who is in charge of Flo’s rankings to get more perspective on this. I’ll let you know if I hear back.

Anyway, rankings are a hard gig and one that I don’t want. And besides, rankings don’t lead to podium finishes or national championships, results do. There’s still plenty of time left for Sebastian to showcase his proper place in the national scene.

As a team, Wisconsin held steady at No. 4 in the team tournament rankings with 57 points. The Badgers hold an 8.5-point edge over No. 5 Arizona State and trail No. 3 Ohio State by 13 points.

UW is No. 9 in Flo’s dual team rankings.

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