No. 20 wrestling makes short trips to No. 14 Indiana, Northwestern

Last weekend, the Illinois wrestling team faced off against No. 13 Penn State. The trip included two flights and a bus to get to Happy Valley and the travel seemed to affect the Illini as they dropped the dual 24-11.

“I’m still worn out from that trip (to Penn State),” head coach Jim Heffernan said. “Even Monday (the wrestlers) were still worn out.”

No. 20 Illinois will be on the road once again this weekend, but the scenario will be much different as it travels to Indiana on Friday and Northwestern for a Sunday match. As opposed to the lengthy flights they faced last weekend, the Illini will be making the much shorter drive to Bloomington, Ind., the day of the dual, which should help the team as it takes on the No. 14 Hoosiers.

“Not traveling, staying in your own bed and working out in your own wrestling room helps a lot more,” junior Ryan Prater said.

The Hoosiers come into the dual sporting a 12-1 record overall with a 1-1 mark in the Big Ten. However, they have been largely untested and dropped their only dual against a ranked opponent when they fell to then-No. 14 Wisconsin last weekend.

The Hoosiers boast two undefeated wrestlers in No. 2 Nate Everhart at heavyweight and No. 1 Angel Escobedo at 125 pounds. Two ranked juniors also occupy the middle of the Hoosier lineup, with No. 6 Kurt Kinser at 157 pounds and No. 13 Paul Young at 165 pounds.

And if the Illini want to earn their first victory over a ranked opponent this season, energy will be a big factor.

“We kind of went out to Penn State a little flat and we paid for it,” Prater said. “I definitely think it’s going to be a lot different for Indiana … We’ve gotta be ready to wrestle because anything can happen. We can’t really afford another loss again.”

On Sunday, the Illini will compete at Northwestern in their last road dual of the Big Ten regular season.

The Wildcats enter the weekend at 5-7-1 and 0-2 in the Big Ten, largely due to the fact that two of their top wrestlers are redshirting this season. No. 14 Andrew Nadhir, wrestling at 149 pounds, is the lone ranked Wildcat.

With duals against No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 5 Minnesota looming large next weekend, it would be easy for Illinois to overlook Northwestern. Coach Heffernan, though, isn’t concerned about the possibility.

“Most of these guys have been through the grind of a season before,” Heffernan said. “If you don’t look at what’s immediately in front of you, not only are you not very smart, but you’re in for a long weekend.”

One key to success this weekend could be the recovery of sophomore Eric Terrazas, who dropped his first two matches of the season last weekend. Terrazas, ranked No. 20, will take on Indiana’s Matt Coughlin at 149 pounds, which could prove to be a pivotal match in the overall outcome. Coughlin has been ranked as high as No. 16 this season.

“Once you lose, you dissect it a little bit,” Terrazas said. “I’m definitely going to change up a few things, try to be more aggressive, open up and just try to wrestle my style out there. I didn’t feel like I wrestled my match last week, and hopefully this week will be a little different.”