After a strong performance Saturday, Maryland wrestling entered Sunday with a chance to secure its best-ever finish at a Big Ten tournament.
But the Terps only won one of their matches — via medical forfeit — on the day and had no wrestler finish better than fifth place.
Still, heavyweight Youssif Hemida, 149-pound Alfred Bannister and 141-pound Ryan Diehl are qualified for the NCAA tournament, though with lower seeds than they hoped.
“I think that our guys competed hard, they just fell a little bit short,” coach Kerry McCoy said. “The mission [was] to get the guys qualified for nationals … now we’ve just got to see where they get drawn up into the bracket and go from there.”
Hemida, the team’s highest-ranked wrestler, lost both his matches and finished in sixth place. Bannister earned fifth place in the 149 weight class, following a loss and a win by forfeit, and Diehl finished in seventh place.
Hemida and Bannister could have finished as high as third place with stronger performances.
Hemida faced Penn State’s No. 3-seed Nick Nevills, whom he struggled against earlier in the season, in the consolation semifinals. Hemida was unable to get a takedown throughout the match, while Nevills had two and won by a 6-1 decision.
After losing chances of third or fourth place, Hemida wrestled Northwestern’s No. 6-seed Conan Jennings for fifth place. Hemida had dominated Jennings during the regular season, earning a pin victory, but came short in the conference tournament.
After a takedown from Hemida and two escapes from Jennings, the match was tied 2-2 in the third period. Jennings earned an edge in riding time, which gave him a 3-2 victory.
McCoy said Youssif was frustrated after the loss, but it will motivate him further come the NCAA tournament.
“He was upset because he knows he’s better than that guy,” McCoy said “He wanted to finish on a positive note. He wanted to beat the guy again. It’s going make him better for it.”
Bannister struggled against Ohio State’s No. 5 seed Ke-Shawn Hayes in the consolation semifinals, not earning a point until an escape in the third period. He lost by a 9-1 decision, and then automatically won his fifth place contest when Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin forfeited.
The win was bittersweet.
“You always want to keep around here, so you always want to wrestle for that position. Especially you don’t want to end the tournament on a loss, but it is what is,” Bannister said. “Fifth place is good. It’s going to help my seeding, but I much rather would’ve earned it.”
Diehl lost the seventh-place matchup in the 141-pound class by a 6-3 decision to Nebraska’s No. 4-seed Chad Red.
Brendan Burnham didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament after being blown out 20-2 by Purdue’s No. 10-seed Jacob Morrissey in the 165-pound consolation bracket.
Still, Bannister is confident his team will perform well in Cleveland.
“When it comes down to it, seedings don’t matter in the national tournament, the best guys in the country get beat at nationals,” Bannister said. “The ball is definitely in our hands.”
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story stated Ryan Diehl missed a podium finish by coming in eighth place in the Big Ten tournament. This story has been updated.