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MADISON, Wis.– After going 2-1 in its first away duals of the season, the Wisconsin wrestling team is gearing up for its toughest competition of the year at the 30th annual Cliff Keen Invitational. UWBadgers.com sat down with head coach Barry Davis to reflect on the season so far and look ahead to competition in Las Vegas.
How did you think your team wrestled against Princeton, Rider and Hofstra?
Davis: “I thought in general, our guys wrestled really aggressive. I still think we are headed where we need to be. Overall, the team wrestled with a lot of intensity. I think we need to get a little better on bottom still, but we’re on guys’ legs and looking to score points. That’s what we want to see right now, our wrestlers getting after guys and wrestling at a high tempo. We thought there were a few matches out there that we could have won, but we’re working on those areas so next time in that situation, we will find a way to win.”
Which wrestlers are improving the most since last season?
Davis: “We have guys that are trying a lot this year like Tom Kelliher. He was behind two matches and found a way to win. Tom is growing and I think his confidence is coming back. I think Tom is going to be surprising people here down the road, but he is off to a pretty good start. Cole Schmitt is looking good. He went 3-0 this weekend. I think he can control better yet and he needs to get a little stronger. Jackson Hein is a young kid stepping in for Trevor Brandvold. He went 3-0 as well.”
Ben Jordan suffered a tough loss against No. 5-ranked Paul Gillespie. What does he need to do to defeat those top wrestlers?
Davis: “I think Ben had opportunities. I think when he gets taken down, he relaxes on the edge of the mat and we have to surprise them and take advantage of the situation. In big matches like that, you have to be engaged the whole time and you can’t afford to relax. He missed a couple of opportunities to score. I think Ben realizes he is in the hunt and he belongs there. He’s a veteran and he will make those changes. Hopefully, he’ll get another chance against him this weekend in Vegas.”
Frank Cousins earned his second pin of the season at Hofstra. Is he a guy you expected to be scoring as many points for the team this early in the season?
Davis: “I told Frank that I think it’s the best I’ve seen him wrestle since he’s been here. He’s moving his feet really well and wrestling the whole time. There’s no flurry, stop and continue. It’s all one big flurry and he fought off some tough situations. I think Frank is a young kid stepping in and I think he’s gaining confidence every weekend. That as a big win at Hofstra for him because he was behind and came back to get the job done.”
Shawn Perry wrestled at three different weight classes last season. Has he settled in at 157 lbs. yet?
Davis: “I think Shawn is settling in at 157. He had a couple of real right matches that he lost at the end, but I don’t think he’s frustrated about it. We talked about the matches against Princeton and Hofstra. We can make some changes and he already knows what he has to fix. Shawn is smart and he’ll make the adjustments. The idea is to keep moving forward, stay confident, and in those situations next time we will find a way to get that win.”
What do you expect to see out of your squad at the Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend?
Davis: “Vegas is going to be a lot more competition. We’re going to see guys from all over the country there. It’s a chance for our guys to make a name for themselves. It’s a chance for guys like Jackson Hein to upset some people and get into the rankings. Timmy McCall will bounce back from that loss at Hofstra. So these young kids really have the chance to open some eyes this weekend. We as a staff have certain things to work on with certain individuals. We’re excited about it.”