Jan. 26, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team hosts 18th-ranked Big Ten rival Northwestern University in the Boilermakers' 2012 home dual finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Holloway Gymnasium. At 7-8 overall and 2-4 in conference action, the Boilermakers will pay tribute to their three seniors before the dual, honoring their commitment to and accomplishments for Purdue wrestling.
The Boilermakers' Class of 2012 consists of seniors Matt Fields, A.J. Kissel and Roger Vukobratovich, who are all set to start on Sunday. The group has combined for 177 wins and several of the top marks in school history in their careers, and look to leave an outstanding legacy as they finish the season.
"This is an outstanding trio of guys and we've been lucky to have them here at Purdue," said Boilermaker head coach Scott Hinkel. "They've been impressive for Purdue both on the mat and in the classroom, and we'll miss their work ethic, talent and leadership when they're gone. Luckily we still have another month of the season to spend with them."
The seniors lead a group of Boilermakers on Sunday, chasing their third Big Ten dual victory of the season and eighth dual win overall. Sophomore Camden Eppert had a triumphant return to the lineup at 125 pounds last weekend, winning a pair of conference tilts, and he'll look to continue that streak, while 13th-ranked junior Ivan Lopouchanski had a pair of wins at 149 pounds as well, including a major decision at Wisconsin. Kissel made his return to the lineup at 197 pounds after missing most of the season, and came through with his 46th career fall, good for second all-time at Purdue. He remains one shy of the Purdue record of 47, currently held by Hinkel.
Fields will get the starting nod at 133 pounds, looking to improve upon his team-best 20 wins this season. He also leads the Boilermakers with five major decisions, 12 reversals and 51 back points, and is tied for the squad's best with eight pins on the year. He shares the top fall count with freshman teammate Brandon Nelsen, who's an impressive 17-8 at 141 pounds, while fellow rookies Braden Atwood, ranked 19th in the nation at 184 pounds, and Drake Stein are close in pursuit at seven and six falls, respectively.
The 18th-ranked Wildcats travel to No. 6 Illinois on Friday (live on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m.) before coming to West Lafayette, and enter the weekend 6-3 (2-3 Big Ten) in dual competition. They're led by their quartet of nationally ranked wrestlers, which is highlighted by second-ranked and undefeated 157-pound junior Jason Welch. Welch is 15-0 this season, including the Midlands Championship title, and earned All-America honors last season for the Wildcats. Fellow junior Levi Mele and freshmen Lee Munster and Mike McMullen account for the other three national rankings and should provide ample competition for the Old Gold and Black. Mele is ninth in the nation at 125 pounds, while Munster is No. 13 at 174 pounds and McMullen is 15th at heavyweight.
"Despite being fairly young, Northwestern is a very good team," said Hinkel. "They've got a lot of guys who can score bonus points, and if you start giving those up duals can get out of hand quickly. We'll have to come ready to wrestle if we want to beat them."
Purdue holds a narrow 42-40-2 all-time edge over Northwestern, including a 19-15-1 advantage at home. Purdue won the first nine contests in series history, starting with the first-ever meeting on Feb. 26, 1921, a 30-12 victory in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers and Wildcats have split the last two outings, both held in Evanston, as Purdue won 33-7 in 2009, while Northwestern took a 32-6 victory last season.
Sunday's senior presentation will begin at approximately 12:50 p.m., with the match set to start at about 1 p.m. The match will be webcast live via Boilermaker All-Access at PurdueSports.com, with color commentary from Boilermakers sophomore heavyweight Alex White. Live results and updates will also be available via TrackWrestling.com and @PurdueWrestling Twitter.