WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team officially gets the 2011-12 campaign underway this weekend, heading to Ypsilanti, Mich. for the Eastern Michigan Open. Saturday's tournament is scheduled to feature over 500 wrestlers, including 17 entries from the Boilermaker lineup.
Schools with entries in the 2011 Eastern Michigan Open include Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and archrival Indiana, while other Division I entries will come from Central Michigan, Navy, Arizona State, Cleveland State, Kent State and the host Eagles. The tournament is set to be one of the biggest fields in event history, and will make for several early-season standout matches.
"It's great to finally have the start of the season right in front of us," said Boilermaker head coach Scott Hinkel. "The guys have been working hard in the room and they're anxious to compete against someone other than their teammates. For several of our guys it will be their first time in a Purdue singlet, and for others it will be a greatly anticipated return to action."
Two of the biggest names Hinkel referred to include eighth-ranked redshirt sophomore Cashé Quiroga and No. 9 redshirt junior transfer Ivan Lopouchanski. Quiroga returns to the mat for the Boilermakers after sitting out the 2010-11 season, moving up a weight to start a new career at 133 pounds. After finishing sixth in the nation at 125 pounds, earning All-America honors and setting several Boilermaker rookie records as a true freshman in 2010, he's dying to get back into competition and wear the Old Gold and Black.
"I've been itching to get back into competition mode and put that Purdue singlet on," said Quiroga. "It's an honor to wear that uniform and compete with my teammates and this Saturday can't get here soon enough."
Lopouchanski looks to prove himself an outstanding addition to the Purdue lineup and get things off on the right foot at 149 pounds. He was 41-10 at UNC Greensboro last season, finishing one win shy of All-America status, and is anxious to take the next step with his new Boilermaker teammates.
"It's a different setting here at Purdue, but I have the same level of expectations," said Lopouchanski. "I have new coaches and new teammates, but I'm ready to face this challenge and take the first step towards NCAAs."
A handful of returning starters look to make a move into the limelight this weekend for Purdue, while several others aim to establish spots in the Boilermakers' starting lineup. Sophomores Camden Eppert and Kyle Mosier, junior Jake Fleckenstein and seniors Matt Fields and Roger Vukobratovich are ready to be noticed as Eppert will go at 125 pounds, Fields at 133, Fleckenstein at 141, Mosier at 165 and Vukobratovich at heavyweight.
After seeing very limited time last season junior Tommy Churchard and sophomores Cameron Vlahos and Alex White look to do some damage as well. Churchard is the Boilermakers' projected starter at 157, moving up from 149 a year ago. White is scheduled to compete in the heavyweight division, while Vlahos is slotted for 165 pounds. Senior A.J. Kissel, ranked 13th in the nation at 197 pounds, is scheduled to sit out the season-opening tournament.
Weigh-ins for Saturday's action are scheduled for 7 a.m. in Bowen Field House, with matches set to begin at 9 a.m. Brackets will be drawn shortly after weigh-ins and will be available at www.TrackWrestling.com.