Maryland wrestling has struggled in conference play since it joined the Big Ten.
The Terps had a 2-76 conference record entering this year. So far, they are 1-4 in conference play and coach Alex Clemsen’s squad has a chance to pick up its second conference win in the coming weeks.
“They gotta go out and get across that line right away and try to match intensity and match levels,” Clemsen said. “Make sure that you’re giving yourself an opportunity to execute. It’s hard to do when you’re taking a backseat.”
Maryland’s final three conference matches are against Minnesota, Michigan State and Rutgers. The Golden Gophers and Scarlet Knights are both ranked in the top 15, while the Terps are behind all three teams in the Big Ten standings: Rutgers has a 3-2 conference record, Minnesota is 1-2 and Michigan State is 1-3.
The Terps likely have the best chance of picking up that best win against Michigan State. Both teams have six ranked wrestlers and the match will be in College Park — Xfinity Center Pavilion is the only place Maryland has ever won Big Ten duals as a program.
If Maryland wants to win any of the three matches, however, it’ll need solid performances from some of the smaller names in their lineup. Braxton Brown, Kal and Ethen Miller, Michael North, Dominic Solis and Jaxon Smith have all picked up wins in Big Ten competition this season, but the rest of the Terps’ lineup hasn’t been much help to the team.
The 125-pound weight class has been a huge problem this season for the Terps. Brown came into the year representing Maryland in that category, but later moved up to 133. His replacement, Tommy Capul, has struggled, with only one win in dual matches this season and an 0-5 record in Big Ten duals.
More damaging, however, has been the way he’s lost. Out of the five losses, three have been by technical fall, which puts Maryland in an immediate 5-0 hole in duals that start at 125 pounds.
Capul has shown some recent improvement, holding two of his last three opponents to major decisions. If he continues to close the gap between himself and opponents, it would give the Terps a huge advantage as they close out the season.
The 165-pound weight class has been Maryland’s other main issue. After last year’s starter John Martin Best got injured at the Tiger Style Invite, the Terps have tried Gaven Bell, AJ Rodrigues and Ryan Money in duals.
Money and Rodrigues, both true freshmen, have competed for the Terps in Big Ten action. They’re competing in one of the Big Ten’s deepest weight classes — every opponent they’ve faced is ranked in the top 25.
Though neither wrestler has a conference win, Rodrigues has been the more competitive option of the two. Out of his three conference duals, all three have finished with either decisions or major decisions, while Money lost by fall in both of his conference matches.
Clemsen said he’s impressed with what he’s seen from Rodrigues.
“He’s earned the opportunity,” Clemsen said after the Indiana match. “Right now he gives us the best chance to win every night.”
Their performances, for better or worse, could help decide the Terps’ conference fate.