By Juan Herrera, podcast by Ryan Homler
The University of Maryland wrestling team will compete this weekend at the Big Ten Wrestling Championship in Bloomington, Indiana.
After a disappointing season, which culminated with Maryland losing 12-straight dual meet matches, the Terps look to send some of their wrestlers to the NCAA tournament in mid-March.
Ahead of the Big Ten tournament, the conference’s coaches voted on and released pre-seeds for wrestlers in each individual weight class. Maryland wrestlers Billy Rappo, Alfred Bannister and Youssif Hemida all received pre-seeds within the top-ten.
Senior Billy Rappo earned the No. 6 seed at the 133-pound weight class. Despite a rough start to the season, Rappo has wrestled well recently, picking up five wins in his last seven matches.
In his last match against Drexel’s No. 11 Kevin Devoy Jr., Rappo suffered an injury. According to head coach Kerry McCoy, Rappo should still be able to compete in the tournament.
“He’s working his way back. He’s been back on the mat these last couple of days,” McCoy said. “He hasn’t been going a 100 percent, but we’re just being precautious with him and making sure he’s ready to go on Saturday.”
Alfred Bannister, who has missed the Terps’ last seven matches due to injury, was given the fourth seed in the tournament for the 149-pound weight class. Prior to the injury, Bannister was red-hot and arguably the best wrestler on the team.
“The work I’m putting in, in the room will put me where I need to be at,” Bannister said. “I believe I’m ready, my coaches think I’m ready, so I’m just trying to let these guys know that I’m back.”
Sophomore heavyweight Youssif Hemida has also been a bright spot for the Terps this season. He recently knocked off Drexel’s No. 17 Joey Goodhart and has only dropped matches to some of the best heavyweights in the country like Ohio State’s No.1 Kyle Snyder and Penn State’s No. 3 Nick Nevills.
“Coming off of these matches has definitely been a confidence boost,” Hemida said. “I’m not paying attention to rankings, but seeing that I beat a ranked guy from Drexel, that will boost my confidence and show that I can beat these better guys.”
Outside of those three wrestlers, most of the other Terps are either unseeded or seeded outside of the top ten in the tournament.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Diehl, redshirt junior Justin Alexander and redshirt freshman Josh Ugalde were all awarded No.13 seeds, while redshirt freshman Idris White earned the No.14 seed at 184 pounds. Michael Beck, Patrick Gerish and David-Brian Whisler are unseeded in the tournament
The Big Ten Championships will begin on March 4 and continue to March 5. Should some of Maryland’s wrestlers qualify, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Champions will take place on March 16-17 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.