Despite losing to familiar foes at the end of the Big Ten championships, Maryland wrestling’s confidence isn’t shaken.
Instead, coach Kerry McCoy feels the Terps’ three NCAA qualifiers — 149-pounder Alfred Bannister, heavyweight Youssif Hemida and 141-pounder Ryan Diehl — have an advantage going into the upcoming championships.
“Even though they didn’t get what they wanted — they didn’t get to be a Big Ten champ — the value of the experience is going to help them to perform at the NCAA tournament,” McCoy said.
The Big Ten is arguably the most talented wrestling conference in the country, so the intensity was high at its championships. Even top ten wrestlers competed in consolation matches and didn’t earn high podium finishes.
Bannister, Hemida and Diehl’s losses at the championships came, for the most part, against nationally ranked wrestlers who had given them trouble during the regular season.
In his second match of the championship, Bannister lost by one point to No. 2 Brandon Sorensen of Iowa, with his only other loss coming against Ohio State’s No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes in the consolation semifinals.
Two of Hemida’s three losses came against top five wrestlers — No. 4 Nick Nevills of Penn State and No. 5 Sam Stoll of Iowa.
Diehl lost twice to Nebraska’s No. 12 Chad Red.
In the regular season, Bannister also lost to Hayes, Hemida fell to Nevills and Red pinned Diehl.
“The level of competition [in the Big Ten championships] is second to none,” McCoy said. “You don’t see that in the NCAA tournament. You don’t see that in any other conference.”
Still, the Terps will need to beat those upper tier opponents to go far at NCAAs.
Bannister, who doesn’t want to dwell on his defeats, said he needs to be more aggressive and set the pace for his matches.
As for Hemida, the first thing the heavyweight said after his final championships loss was, “When are we working out again?”
“He’s so ready and fired up, and he wants to get back and start working because he knows that he’s got to continue to grind to be an All-American,” McCoy said. “I’m excited about his attitude … he’s going to do what he needs to do to get on that podium.”