Wrestling to Contest Starting Roles at Gold & Black Matches

Brandon Nelsen

Oct. 29, 2013

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team will contest starting roles at the Black & Gold Matches Saturday at 10 a.m. ET in Lambert Fieldhouse. The Black & Gold Matches are free and open to the public.

The 2013-14 Boilermakers begin competition at the Michigan State Open on Nov. 9. The first home dual of the season will be one to be remembered as Purdue will celebrate 100 years of wrestling while hosting Duke on Nov. 16. It marks the return of former assistant coach Glen Lanham, who is now at the Blue Devil helm, and two legendary Purdue grapplers, Jake Patascil and Ben Wissel, who are assistants under Lanham.

Half of the Boilermakers' 14 duals will be against teams that finished among the top 20 at the 2013 NCAA Championships. They will take on familiar Big Ten Conference foes and meet a handful of opponents for the first time in years. Head coach Scott Hinkel has his Purdue team in three marquee tournaments to prepare for the 2014 Big Ten Championships and the grand finale at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Leadership and experience are key factors to success and the 2013-14 Boilermakers have that with five returning NCAA qualifiers and four Big Ten Championships placewinners. Their experience, combined with their range of weights, has brought a heightened drive and intensity into the wrestling room. A strong, healthy lineup has returned after battling hankering injuries and off-season surgeries. Even though half of the lineup has postseason credentials, they still have to earn their starting role.

Over the next two days, PurdueSports.com will breakdown each weight class: who's the front-runner to earn a starting spot, who has changed weight classes and who has earned preseason recognition. Gold & Black bouts will be unveiled in the final installment of the 2013-14 preview on Thursday. The first installment takes a look inside look at the veterans and record breakers, not to mention the addition of fresh faces, featured at Purdue's lower weights.

125 pounds
Veteran Camden Eppert enters his final campaign at Purdue with high aspirations after narrowly missing a third-straight trip to the NCAA Championships last year. The senior is looking to have his best season yet after an off-season surgery that questioned whether or not he would return to the mat. His recovery, and what he has shown in the wrestling room, is beyond what was expected. Earning preseason national rankings, Eppert is aiming for a podium finish in Oklahoma City.

Eppert posted a 23-13 record as a junior, with a team-high nine wins via major decision. His 14 reversals earned him a spot on the single-season top-20 list, tied for 18th, and pushed him into a tie for 11th on the all-time list with 33. In conference duals, the Anderson, Ind., native surrendered just three takedowns while registering a 6-2 mark.

Despite Eppert's credentials, redshirt sophomore Luke Schroder and true freshman Aaron Assad will also be contending for the starting role at 125. Schroder wrestled at 125 as a true freshman in 2011-12, filling in as Eppert battled illness and injury, finishing 9-14. He took a redshirt last year while listed at 133, but will drop back down for his second season.

133 pounds
Like Eppert, Cashè Quiroga narrowly missed a third trip to the NCAA Championships last season after battling multiple injuries that limited him to just 13 matches. Quiroga's determination to become a two-time All-American has stood out early in practice. Although he had a shortened season as a junior, Quiroga owned a 10-3 record, highlighted by a trio of major decisions and tech falls, and had a team-high 68 takedowns. He currently sits at eighth on Purdue's career takedown chart with 289 and averages 96.3 takedowns per season. At that rate, he could be closing in on finishing among the top-three all-time. Willie Wineberg (1996-99) is third with 387 takedowns. The senior hailing from Indianapolis, Ind., has also garnered preseason attention, landing among the top 20 in two polls.

Quiroga is being pushed by redshirt freshman Kyle Ayersman and true freshman Luke Welch, who is the younger brother of Doug and Chad.

141 pounds
With Brandon Nelsen making the move to 149 pounds, the competition at 141 has heightened. Redshirt junior Nick Lawrence saw action in four duals, winning three bouts, and competed in six open tournaments, including a first-place finish at the Indianapolis Greyhound Open with a pair of tech falls, for a 17-9 record a year ago.

Danny Sabatello makes the move up to 141 after spending his redshirt freshman season at 133, where he went 11-8. He had a team-best four tech falls which helped him earn the second-most back points among returners with 39. This is also one of the weights where Alex Griffin, a redshirt freshman from Lafayette, Ind., could be a contender as he shifts from 157. Also in the mix is true freshman Cody Pae, a two-time Missouri High School state champ.

149 pounds
For the past two seasons, Brandon Nelsen has been the mainstay at 141, but with the graduation of All-American Ivan Lopouchanski, he makes the move to 149. Nelsen qualified for his first NCAA Championships a year ago after a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. He has twice led the Boilermakers with nine pins in each of his first two seasons, which is tied for 17th on the single-season record list, and his 18 career falls are tied for 14th. The Indianapolis, Ind., native has received preseason recognition, although two polls have him listed at 141. WrestlingReport.com included Nelsen on its 149 list, checking in at No. 23.

Griffin could also be in contention at 149, in addition to 141. True freshman Josh Farrell is also in the mix at 149.