WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team returns to action after a week off, heading to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the University of Northern Iowa Open, Saturday at the UNI Dome. The Boilermakers will take 15 individuals to the tournament, returning to UNI for the first time since 2011, and heading to the UNI Open for the first time since 2006.
Purdue's last trip to Northern Iowa was for the 2011 National Duals, where they suffered losses to Oklahoma State and Central Michigan. The highlight of the trip was former Boilermaker Matt Fields's 3:14 pin over the Chippewas' All-American 133-pounder, Scotti Sentes. The Boilermakers haven't attended the Panthers' open tournament as a team since 2006, where they placed three individuals, including 197-pound champion Nathan Moore.
The Boilermakers enter the weekend ranked 21st in the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Coaches Poll, earning 198 votes this week, and have five individuals ranked by the majority of the national outlets. Four of the five will be in action this weekend as senior Ivan Lopouchanski will take some extra rest as a reward for his flawless 12-0 record and consensus top-14 national ranking at 149 pounds. The Boilermakers' captain quartet of juniors Camden Eppert and Cashé Quiroga, senior Tommy Churchard and sophomore Braden Atwood all look to bolster their status among the country's elite this weekend.
Eppert enters the weekend at 9-4 at 125 pounds, coming off a win over then-ninth-ranked Steve Bonanno of Hofstra. He was third at the season-opening Eastern Michigan Open, and is ready to add a tournament championship to his resume. Quiroga has seen limited action at 133 pounds, fighting off several minor bumps and bruises, but is ready to get things on track and build on his 3-1 mark. His 239 career takedowns are already good for 15th in school history, and he'd like nothing more than to catch Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel on the list this weekend, who sits 12th with 263 to his credit.
Churchard is off to a fantastic start to his final collegiate season, posting a 9-1 record at 157 pounds and cracking the top 20 in five of the six national polls. He is among the team leaders in nearly every category, including a pair of technical falls, 33 dual team points, 32 takedowns, five reversals and 22 back points. Atwood has a similar record, sitting 8-1 at 197 pounds, and is tied for third on the roster with a pair of falls. He posted one of the biggest wins of his career in his last outing, topping Maryland's then-10th-ranked Christian Boley, 12-5, and is anxious to see his first tournament action of the season after missing the Eastern Michigan Open.
"We're off to a solid start," said Hinkel. "This weekend is another opportunity to compete, get some wins and continue building towards our goals. We want to take full advantage of every opportunity."