WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team opens its Big Ten Dual schedule this weekend, heading to Michigan State University on Friday and then on to the University of Iowa on Sunday. The Boilermakers are ranked 21st in the nation and sit 9-2 overall this season, aiming to open conference action with a victory for the second straight season.
The Boilermakers head to East Lansing, coming off a disappointing 28th-place finish at the 50th-annual Midlands Championships. Missing four starters from the lineup, Purdue amassed just 16.5 points and were unable to advance any individuals past the first day of competition. Sophomores Braden Atwood and Brandon Nelsen came the closest, falling two wins short of the placing rounds, while fellow sophomore Patrick Kissel won a pair of matches before medically defaulting out of the tournament.
"The start of Big Ten Duals marks the beginning second part of our season," said Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel. "The preseason was the first part, and I think we did fairly well overall, but we take the next step on Friday and want to get off on the right foot."
Hinkel looks to have a full lineup on hand going into the weekend, returning juniors Camden Eppert and Cashé Quiroga, senior Ivan Lopouchanski and freshman Chad Welch after their absence from Midlands. The Boilermakers have won at least seven matches in each of their nine dual victories this season and have swept their opponents in four of their dual wins.
Michigan State enters the weekend at just 2-2 in dual competition and 0-1 in the conference after a 19-12 loss to No. 23 Wisconsin on Dec. 7. A very young Spartan squad is led by junior Mike McClure, who is a consensus top-10 heavyweight in the national polls and sits 17-1 on the season. McClure led Michigan State to a third-place team showing at the Reno Tournament of Champions, topping a solid tournament field at 285 pounds. Other standout Spartans include seniors Dan Osterman and David Cheza, who sit 13-4 and 4-0 at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively. Michigan State leads the all-time series against Purdue, 47-23-1, including a 22-10-1 mark in East Lansing, but the Boilermakers have won four of the last five, including a 22-17 victory in West Lafayette to open last season's Big Ten schedule. The last four trips to East Lansing have been split at 4-4, including a 20-13 win for Michigan State in the last matchup on Feb. 7, 2010.
Fifth-ranked Iowa hosts fourth-ranked Ohio State on Friday before the Boilermakers come to town on Sunday. The Hawkeyes feature another stellar lineup this season, logging a flawless 10-0 record on the year with a ranked individual in nine of the 10 weight classes. Senior Matt McDonough and junior Derek St. John highlight the lineup, entering the weekend as the consensus top-ranked wrestlers in the country at 125 and 157 pounds, respectively. McDonough is a two-time NCAA Champion at 125 and is 8-0 on the year, while St. John was the national runner-up at 157 pounds in 2012 and is 10-0 this season. Other standouts include the undefeated quartet of junior Tony Ramos, senior Mark Ballweg and sophomores Mike Evans and Bobby Telford. Ramos is ranked second in the country and is 10-0 at 133 pounds, Ballweg is 12th at 141 pounds with his 10-0 record, Evans is 11th in the nation at 174 with an 8-0 mark and Telford sits fifth in the country at heavyweight with a 10-0 record. Purdue owns just four wins in school history against the Hawkeyes (37-4-3), with the last coming in Iowa City on Feb. 25, 1961.
"Winning in the Big Ten Conference is tough enough, with the added difficulty of going on the road and wrestling in a place like Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday," said Hinkel. "We're going to get out there and compete, looking to come home with a couple dual wins."
Both matches are scheduled to air on the Big Ten Digital Network, set to start at 7 p.m. (ET) on Friday against Michigan State, and at 5 p.m. (CT) on Sunday at Iowa. Live updates of both matches will be available via TrackWrestling.com and the @PurdueWrestling Twitter Page.