Dec. 7, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team is set to open Big Ten Dual competition this Friday, hosting Michigan State University in Holloway Gymnasium at 7 p.m. The Boilermakers enter the weekend 3-4 in dual meets, while the Spartans are 2-1, fresh off a 2-0 eastern road trip last weekend.
The Boilermakers were 3-5 in Big Ten Duals in 2010-11, taking down Michigan State, 22-9, in one of their three wins. Last season's trio of conference victories were Purdue's most since the 2003-04 slate, when the Boilermakers were 4-4 and finished sixth at the Big Ten Championships. Purdue is 22-47-1 all-time against Michigan State, dating to the first-ever meeting on March 7, 1925. Purdue has a 10-22 home record against the Spartans and the Boilermakers have won three of the last four meetings, including a 22-9 victory in West Lafayette last season in which the Boilermakers won seven of the 10 matchups. The series has gone back and forth over the last 15 years, but before that both squads put together long runs. The Boilermakers were undefeated against Michigan State from 1986 to 1993 (8-0-1), while the Spartans won 32 consecutive duals from 1951 to 1985.
The Boilermakers have braved tough times recently, competing without nearly half the starting lineup at Northern Illinois last week, including their highly-ranked trio of sophomore Cashé Quiroga, junior Ivan Lopouchanski and senior A.J. Kissel. Sophomore 125-pounder Camden Eppert added his name to that list on Thursday, missing the meet due to illness, and he and junior 141-pounder Jake Fleckenstein are questionable for Friday's tilt with the Spartans. The good news, however, is that the Boilermakers could see the return of their other three starters as Quiroga, Lopouchanski and Kissel are slated to weigh-in this week.
"It would be a huge lift to get these guys back in the lineup," said Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel. "Cashé, Ivan and A.J. are our most decorated wrestlers and the excitement and potential bonus points that they bring to the table picks up the rest of our guys. It's easier to get excited to wrestle when the guy in front of you just pinned someone or picked up a major."
However the Old Gold and Black have kept things going without the presence of their ranked trio, stringing together wins against No. 24 American and Northern Illinois to climb closer to a .500 record on the season. Sophomore Kyle Mosier, freshmen Drake Stein and Braden Atwood and seniors Matt Fields and Roger Vukobratovich have done most of the heavy lifting, combining for a 7-1 mark and 31 team points in the last two duals. Stein and Fields scored key pins in the Boilermakers' upset victory over American, while Mosier had Purdue's lone bonus points of the win over the Huskies. Fields has been impressive at 133 pounds during Quiroga's absence, going 5-2 in duals with three falls, a major decision and Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors.
Michigan State brings a familiar and formidable lineup to West Lafayette on Friday, returning all its starters from last season and bringing 2010 NCAA Qualifier Anthony Jones back to the mix at 157 pounds. Despite having just one ranked wrestler in the lineup (13th-ranked heavyweight Mike McClure), the Spartans are very solid throughout and provide a tough matchup for the Old Gold and Black. Junior Dan Osterman is no stranger to national rankings at 149 pounds, owning an 11-4 mark this season, and Jones had an incredible postseason run in 2010, and is 7-1 so far this year. Senior David Cheza has bumped to 165 pounds with the return of Jones, and has built a 6-1 mark in 2011, while fellow seniors Curran Jacobs, Ian Hinton and Tyler Dickenson continue the veteran gauntlet at 174, 184 and 197 pounds. Jacobs and Hinton have 10 wins apiece this season and Dickenson has been in-and-out of the rankings at 197, sitting 5-1 on the year.
"Any team with as many seniors as Michigan State has will be tough," said Hinkel. "Their guys have been around and know this is their final season of wrestling. Our young guys are going to have to bring their A-game if we want to win on Friday."
The Boilermakers will be joined on the bench on Friday by honorary captain Bill Andrew, who wrestled for the Old Gold and Black from 1970-to-1973 and was a team captain in his final season. Andrew had a distinguished career in the educational and coaching field, serving for nearly 40 years, including 22 years as an administrator, in education and collecting a long list of coaching awards. He led Osage Community School to an Iowa High School State in 1981, earning state coach of the year honors, in addition to three more state runner-up finishes, and coached at local Lafayette Jeff High School from 1987 to 1996.
Friday's meet will feature a mixed martial arts and Muay Thai demonstration from Diamond Fitness/Muay Thai, based in Greenwood, Ind., while the Boilermakers will raffle off a $250 Best Buy gift card. Tickets for Friday are $5 for adults and $2 for students and can be purchased at the Purdue Athletics Ticket Office before the match. Live stats will be available via TrackWrestling.com, in addition to in-match updates at the @PurdueWrestling Twitter page.