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Maryland wrestling hopes to rise above its seeding in the Big Ten Championships

Jahi Jones, Kyle Cochran and Jaron Smith are the only wrestlers ranked top-10 in their classes for the tournament in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After finishing the regular season 2-17 overall and 0-9 in Big Ten play, Maryland wrestling heads to Piscataway, New Jersey, where Rutgers will host the Big Ten Championships Saturday and Sunday.

With only three Maryland wrestlers, Jahi Jones (157), Kyle Cochran (165) and Jaron Smith (197) seeded top-10 in their weight-classes, the Terps are looking to bust open brackets all across the board with upsets.

“Earning has nothing to do with [winning], you have to go out and take it,” head coach Alex Clemsen said.

Here are the Terps’ matchups in the first round of the tournament:

Weight Class Wrestler Opponent
Weight Class Wrestler Opponent
125 13-seed Brandon Cray 4-seed Justin Cardini (Illinois)
133 13-seed King Sandoval 4-seed Travis Piotrowski (Illinois)
141 14-seed Hunter Baxter 3-seed Max Murin (Iowa)
149 14-seed Ryan Garlitz 3-seed Brayton Lee (Minnesota)
157 10-seed Jahi Jones 7-seed Peyton Robb (Nebraska)
165 10-seed Kyle Cochran 7-seed Danny Braunagel IIllinois)
174 12-seed Philip Spadafora 5-seed Michael Labriola (Nebraska)
184 14-seed Kyle Jasenski 3-seed Abe Assad (Iowa)
197 9-seed Jaron Smith 8-seed Jackson Striggow (Michigan)
285 14-seed Parker Robinson 3-seed Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa)

Smith received the highest seed for any Terp. He sits at No. 9 in the 197-pound weight class and will face No. 8 Jackson Striggow from Michigan in the first round. Smith finished the regular season with an overall record of 9-7 and 3-2 in dual conference play and was the only Terp with a dual conference record over .500.

Smith had recently won Big Ten Wrestler of the Week and is going into his first Big Ten Championships tournament humble and reaching for more wins.

“[This is] the best I’ve ever done, I’ve never made it to a conference tournament,” Smith said. “I can stake my claim on, ‘Oh I’ve made it this far. I’ve been seeded decently high, higher than people would expect me to be,’ but at the same time I know that’s not nearly as good as I could’ve been... It’s just not good enough.”

Jones and Cochran are seeded No. 10 in the 157-pound and 165-pound weight classes, respectively. Jones’ stands at a conference dual record of 2-3, while Cochran is 4-4. Both wrestlers denied to comment Thursday on the upcoming Big Ten Championships.

Clemsen has had almost two full weeks since his team’s last dual against Rider on Feb. 22, giving him and the Terps plenty of time to get in the right headspace, and shape for the upcoming competition.

“We are healthy and we’ve worked really hard,” Clemsen said. “I think these guys are understanding how much they’ve sacrificed and hopefully deep into these brackets — whether you’re on the front-side or the back-side. Hopefully we are a little fresher, and we want it a little more, and we can steal some wins no matter where we are on the bracket.”

Clemsen mentioned that not much has changed in Maryland’s practice room, but he’s found a balance between physical and mental preparation for the tournament to come. He made sure his guys focused on staying healthy, keeping a positive attitude, techniques, positioning and making sure the work they put in at practice translates over in competition.

Smith spent his time away from competition focusing on his chain-wrestling and making sure he is comfortable in any position he finds himself in with future opponents.

“Being able to go from one thing to the next is really important,” Smith said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on.”

Smith, and all his teammates, have been preparing all season for the Big Ten Championships. This weekend, they hope to showcase the improvements they have made since facing their many conference opponents in dual play.

In hopes of advancing to the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from March 19-21, the Terps will have a tough enough time given the Big Ten’s notorious reputation for being the toughest conference.

Of the total 283 wrestlers, from every weight class, that qualify for the NCAA Championships, the Big Ten will send 79 following the results of the Big Ten Championships — the most of any conference due to their elite individual rankings.

The breakdown of the Big Ten Championships’ seeding as well as how many wrestlers from each weight-class and conference that will advance can be found on Maryland Wrestling’s page.