Coming into the weekend, Ethen Miller said he could see himself becoming a Big Ten champion.

He nearly achieved it. In the semifinals against Michigan’s Austin Gomez, Miller narrowly lost in an opportunity to advance to the finals. Instead, Miller dropped a 5-4 decision before eventually finishing fourth overall at 149 pounds.

Miller was the breakout star for the Terps over the weekend, proving he belonged alongside the Big Ten’s best 149 pounders. Maryland saw three wrestlers secure automatic bids to the NCAA championships in Kansas City later this month. Three others remain in the race for at-large bids after a solid showing over the weekend at the conference tournament, hosted in College Park for the first time ever.

“We didn’t finish today very strong,” coach Alex Clemsen said. “I’m not a big fan of even numbers. I like odd numbers much better. But we’re building our thing from pretty much ground zero. When you look at where we were five years ago we couldn’t score placement.”

Braxton Brown places sixth at 133 pounds

After beating Caden Rooks in the first round, Braxton Brown had a tough test looming.

Brown’s quarterfinal opponent was Rutgers’ Dylan Shawver, a top-10 foe at 133 pounds who had already beaten Brown this season.

[Maryland wrestling has one last chance to boost NCAA championships hopes]

Both wrestlers found a takedown and escape point in the opening period, and after Brown got out from the bottom position in the second for a 5-4 lead, Shawver responded with a reversal in the third from the bottom.

Brown escaped to send the match to sudden victory, where Shawver found a match-ending takedown off a single leg attempt and scramble.

Brown was tested again in his next match against Wisconsin’s Nicolar Rivera. After a scoreless first, Rivera started on the top and picked up two nearfall points, then found a reversal back to take a 4-3 lead.

Brown started the third from the top and rode out the whole period, blanketing Rivera and picking up two massive minutes of riding time to tie the match at four. The bout went to sudden victory, where a huge lift and slam from Brown secured the winning takedown to end it and sent the Terps contingent in Xfinity Center into a frenzy.

He breezed by Purdue’s Jackson Norris in the next round with a 3-1 decision, only surrendering a point for stalling.

In the consolation semifinals, Brown faced Penn State’s Aaron Nagao. Nagao built an early lead with a takedown and four near fall points in the first two periods. Brown fought back later in the match but ultimately fell in a decision win for Nagao.

Brown took on Iowa’s Brody Teske in the fifth place match and fell, 4-1, on a Teske takedown.

“We’re watching him mature at a high rate,” Clemsen said. “He’s quickly figured it out. He’s finding out how to really fight. Wrestling’s a fist fight with a specific set of rules. He’s learned how to stand in there and throw blows and win tight matches and execute late in matches.”

Jaxon Smith finishes fourth at 197 pounds

After a first-round bye, Smith was tested immediately in the quarterfinals with Rutgers’ John Poznanski, a former All-American and two-time NCAA Qualifier.

Smith secured an early takedown and 3-0 lead. Poznanski escaped after Smith picked up 34 seconds of riding time, and then picked up a second escape after 30 seconds in the following period after starting from the bottom position. Smith opened the third with an escape from the bottom for a 4-2 lead, but Poznanski found a takedown of his own, and held Smith down for just long enough to negate the riding time advantage.

In sudden victory, Smith ducked under and took his back with a clean move to end the match with a takedown.

Smith battled Iowa’s Zach Glazier in the semifinals, which was even through three periods. Smith made a mistake with a sloppy shot in sudden victory. Glazier made him pay for it.

Alex Clemsen yells during the Big Ten wrestling championship on March 10, 2024. (Eric Robinson/The Diamondback)

He pancaked Smith for a takedown that sent the Terp to the consolation bracket.

Smith’s match in the consolation semifinals resembled more of his bouts in Big Ten play this season. His opponent, Garrett Joles, had no answers for his speed, craftiness and strength. Smith picked up multiple takedowns in a variety of ways in an 11-2 major decision win to send him to the consolation finals.

There, Smith took on Nebraska’s Silas Allred. After two evenly matched periods, Allred broke through in the third with multiple takedowns to grab the decision win.

“We need to look at how we prepped for this final round, timing wise, diet wise, maybe warmup wise, mindset wise,” Clemson said. “Just need to make adjustments and evolve and I believe our staff does a really good job of that. We find ways to maximize resources and maximize opportunities. I have faith that in 10, 11 days, we’ll be better because we stumbled down the stretch for Kansas City.”

Seth Nevills forced to rely on at-large bid for NCAAs

The fifth-seeded Seth Nevills got off to a great start Sunday. He was dominant in his opening round matchup, controlling Wisconsin’s Gannon Rosenfeld with a 4-1 decision win. His next bout was in the semifinals against a wrestler he previously beat this season: Rutgers’ Yaraslau Slavikouski.

[Maryland wrestling will redshirt Kal Miller next year, continuing a successful strategy]

Similar to their first battle, Nevills and Slavikouski were evenly matched through most of the match until Slavikouski picked up near fall points late and took a 6-1 decision.

Nevills faced Northwestern’s Jack Jessen in the consolation bracket, where he advanced behind takedowns in the first two periods and solid defense. But Nevills was visibly gassed to finish the match and showed fatigue in his next match, a 7-0 decision loss to Nebraska’s Nash Hutmacher.

The defeat sent Nevills to the seventh place match, where an automatic bid to the NCAA championship was on the line against Indiana’s Nick Willham.

The only points either wrestler mustered through three periods were escapes, sending the match to sudden victory. There, Nevills was on the attack, but Willham saw through a shot from far out and took Nevills’ back. Maryland’s 285-pounder lost, making his only chance of a NCAA appearance via an at-large bid.

Jaxon Smith celebrates after a win during the Big Ten wrestling championship on March 10, 2024. (Eric Robinson/The Diamondback)