For the first time in program history, Maryland wrestling scored zero points and was unable to place any wrestlers on the podium at the Big Ten Championships. The Terps only mustered up one individual win in Piscataway, New Jersey.
“We just didn’t wrestle well,” head coach Alex Clemsen said. “When all of the lights are the brightest, our weaknesses get amplified.”
Out of the 25 individual matches that the Terps competed in, Maryland’s 174-pound wrestler, Philip Spadafora, was the only Terp to win a match at the tournament. The rest of the team either went 0-2 or 0-3.
Clemsen was disappointed, to say the least, about his team’s performance over the weekend. Some of the non-starters also traveled to Piscataway to watch the championships and view the troubling outcome at Rutgers.
“A lot of young guys traveled to watch the tournament and experience the disappointment,” Clemsen said. “It stung them a little bit.”
Spadafora was the only wrestler to compete in the second day of the tournament on Sunday. After losing his first two matches, he got a chance to wrestle back to the ninth place match.
Spadafora won his third match in a close 4-2 sudden victory against Michigan’s Max Maylor. Both wrestlers were tied at two points after three periods, which pushed the match into overtime.
Spadafora kept his composure and was able to score a takedown in sudden victory to advance to the ninth place match. But he dropped a 4-1 decision to Wisconsin’s Jared Krattiger.
Krattiger took the lead in the first period with a double-leg takedown. He then advanced his lead to 3-0 with an escape in the second period. Spadafora’s only point was from an escape in the final period, while Krattiger got another point from riding time. Spadafora finished the tournament in 10th place.
Although none of the Maryland wrestlers qualified for the National Championships, Clemsen said there is a chance that two Terps could advance as a wild card to compete.
Spadafora and 157-pounder Jahi Jones are the two Terps who have the highest chance of being a wild card, according to Clemsen.
The criteria for being a wild card in the National Championships are being one win away from advancing to the National Championships, quality wins within a wrestler’s conference, a wrestler’s coaching rank, winning-percentage and a wrestler’s RPI (the strength of a wrestler’s schedule and how they competed).
Clemsen said that Spadafora has the strongest chance of becoming a wild card, while Jones had a fair amount of wins against top-20 wrestlers.
“[Jones] just had a bad Big Ten tournament,” Clemsen said of his 0-2 performance.
Jones’ first match of the day was against Peyton Robb from Nebraska. The Terp was unable to put together any offensive moves against his opponent in his 14-3 major decision loss. Jones tried to come back in the consolation round against Rutgers’ Michael Vanbrill, but lost in a 7-3 decision.
Jaron Smith — the highest seeded Terp at No. 9 — also went 0-2 at the tournament. He dropped his first match in a close 5-4 decision, unable to overcome his one-point deficit in the third period. In the consolation round, Smith dropped a 11-2 major decision to Hunter Ritter from Minnesota and was knocked out of the tournament.
Smith had recently been on a hot streak in dual play, but as Clemsen said about the Maryland wrestling team as a whole.
“We picked a bad time to have a bad weekend,” he said.
Clemsen said the Terps will be back in the practice room this week to train like they will be competing in the National Championships.
“We gotta change. We’ve made steps, but not enough. We need to do more,” Clemsen said. “If they don’t like how they felt then let that fuel them and have a very productive off-season.”
Three Things to Know
1. Wild cards for the National Championships will be announced on Tuesday. With hopes at a shot to send some of his wrestlers to the National Championships, Clemsen and Maryland wrestling fans will have to wait a few days to see who may or may not compete.
“It would be good to get some of our guys to nationals and get a sense of that championship environment,” Clemsen said.
2. It was the first time Maryland wrestling scored zero team points at the Big Ten Championships. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Maryland wrestling has not competed at its conference’s skill level and has only one dual win in conference play. This weekend’s performance was one of the worst, if not the worst, in program history. Maryland finished dead last, while Indiana — its closest opponent — finished in 13th place with 11.5 points.
3. The absence of Youssif Hemida and Alfred “Baby J” Bannister was felt more than ever. Despite Maryland’s clear struggles over the past few seasons, the team could always count on the duo of heavyweight Youssif Hemida and 149-pounder Alfred “Baby J” Bannister to pick up wins and placements at big events like the Big Ten Championships. But without the pair of stars, the Terps didn’t show any sign of competitiveness.