Entering the final Big Ten dual meet of the season against No. 21 Minnesota, the Maryland wrestling team is searching for its first conference win.
The Terps (4-10, 0-8 Big Ten) are looking inward rather than focusing on Sunday’s opponent, in the hopes that fine-tuning their techniques will be enough to upset the Golden Gophers (5-6, 2-4).
“In particular we’re just reinforcing a lot of positions, so it’s not so much new technique but reinforcing the stuff we’ve been doing and stuff that works,” heavyweight Youssif Hemida said. “We’re kind of in the later part of our season, so practices have been a little bit shorter and a little bit higher intensity.”
Specifically, the Terps have been working on stance in motion drills, leg attacks and getting off the bottom, among other details.
Hemida, the team’s highest-ranked ranked wrestler, is looking to take those skills into his match to capitalize on points.
“I really want to see how many points I can score honestly,” he said. “I want to get turns, I want to get back points, hopefully I get a pin, but I really want to just open up the match and just go out there and score a lot, because that’s what’s important when wrestling a good guy.”
David-Brian Whisler, a 197-pounder, said a big part of recent practices centered on keeping a positive attitude despite Maryland’s struggles in conference duals this season.
“[Coach Kerry McCoy] goes, ‘We can’t afford having an attitude that’s down on any of these days. All these days have to be putting in effort,'” Whisler said. “Right now beating Minnesota, but rounding up the season on a couple wins and going into the conference tournament.”
McCoy said the emphasis was part of a larger strategy to prepare the team for the end of the season. After facing Minnesota, the Terps have duals against Rider and Ohio on Feb. 18, the team’s final competitions before the Big Ten Championships.
“We’ve got to be ready for [Minnesota], but we have to make sure that we’re strong so we’re ready to compete with them,” McCoy said, “but really to build until the end of the year.”
If Maryland is to secure its first Big Ten win since 2016, it will likely need strong performances from its heavier wrestlers like Hemida and Whisler. Minnesota boasts six ranked wrestlers but are weaker in those weight classes, which the Terps believe they can take advantage of.
“I think all of our upper weights are going to be in a good position,” McCoy said. “We can’t take anything for granted, but I think that if our guys go out and compete we give ourselves a chance, and if we give ourselves a chance then good things can happen.”