Maryland wrestling 141-pounder Ryan Diehl entered the mat Sunday to face Minnesota All-American Tommy Thorn, the 14th-ranked wrestler in the weight class. Unshaken by loud Golden Gopher fans who traveled to College Park, Diehl nailed Thorn in a reverse pin in the first period.
149-pounder Alfred Bannister followed by not allowing a single takedown by Minnesota’s Miles Patton and earning a major decision.
Despite falling 26-22 to No. 19 Minnesota (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten), several Terps built momentum for the postseason by winning matches against a top-20 team for the second consecutive meet.
“It shows that I’m peaking right when I need to be at the end of the season,” Bannister said. “That’s where it’s most important.”
Maryland went winless in the conference for the second straight season, but its loss to Minnesota was its closest of the year.
David-Brian Whisler and No. 7 Youssif Hemida picked up wins in the 197-pound and heavyweight classes, respectively, to help keep the scoreline respectable.
“You get a win like that and it shows you’re right there with those kids, so it’s a big confidence boost,” Diehl said. “Everything’s just flowing right now.”
Diehl, Bannister, Whisler and Hemida also won their matches against No. 15 Illinois on Jan. 28. The Big Ten and NCAA tournaments are focused on the success of individual wrestlers, rather than the team, so that momentum is crucial.
Maryland has two nonconference matches against Rider and Ohio University before the Big Ten Tournament starts on March 3.
“It’s something to build on,” coach Kerry McCoy said. “We’re putting ourselves in a position that we’ve got some guys that are going to be high seeds in the conference tournament, get to the NCAA tournament and then go from there.”
So, even though Maryland will enter the postseason without a conference win since 2016, McCoy believes the Big Ten gauntlet the Terps faced will give them an advantage in March.
“The way the rotation goes when you’ve got Iowa and Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Rutgers on your schedule, we just went through it,” he said. It’s going to make us more prepared for the postseason for sure.”