The Wisconsin wrestling team kicked off the 2007-08 season Thursday night in front of 647 fans at the UW Field House for the team’s annual Wrestle-Offs. The Badgers used ten matches to determine their starting lineup for the season.
“I liked how we wrestled overall as a team, I thought they looked good,” Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis said. “As a coach, what we look for is how the guys compete with each other and the tendencies of certain guys. I look for how we wrestle overall as a team, how we get to the mat, how they work in riding situations, that’s mainly what we’re looking for right now and we can find areas where each guy can improve.”
Things got started with a match at 125 lbs. featuring last season’s starter Collin Cudd (River Falls, Wis.) and sophomore Drew Hammen (Random Lake, Wis.). Cudd got out to a 2-0 start in the first period and Hammen tallied just two escapes in the whole match. Cudd, a three-time NCAA qualifier captured the match, 7-2.
At 133 lbs., junior Zach Tanelli (Short Hills, N.J.) tallied two takedowns and two near falls in the first period to go up on sophomore Eric Senescu, 9-1 in the first. Tanelli controlled the rest of the match, and returns as Wisconsin’s starter at 133 lbs. with a 16-2 win over Senescu.
Badger co-captain, sophomore Kyle Ruschell (Crittendon, Ky.) faced junior Dan Sneider (Northbrook, Ill.) at 141 lbs. Ruschell stormed out to a 12-0 lead in the first period and finished with a tech fall, just 3:09 into the match to regain his starting spot.
With the departure of former All-American Tyler Turner, Wisconsin has a large gap to fill at 149 lbs. Two freshmen earned their way into the final match tonight as both won preliminary matches earlier in the week. Kendall Vogel (Westfield, Wis.) scored first with a takedown in the first frame but Weldon Rogers (Oak Park, Ill.) was the next to score with a one-point escape in the second period. With the score close at 2-1 heading into the third, Vogel tallied four points in the final frame to earn the match and the starting spot with a 6-1 score.
“Being a freshman, I thought Kendall Vogel used the mat really well, he knew where he was the whole time,” Davis said. “For a young kid doing that right away, I thought that was impressive.”
NCAA runner-up and another Badger co-captain, Craig Henning (Chippewa Falls, Wis.), faced off against redshirt freshman Gabe Stoppelmoor at 157 lbs. Henning held Stoppelmoor scoreless in the match and captured a 12-0 decision. Stoppelmoor will compete at 149 lbs. this season but moved up for tonight’s match against Henning.
The bout at 165 lbs. was one of the closest of the night and featured senior Jake Donar (Cuba City, Wis.) and junior Mike Felling (Hutchinson, Minn.). Donar wrestled the most for Wisconsin at 165 lbs. last season and Felling moves down a weight class this year after wrestling at 174 lbs. in 2006-07. In Thursday’s match, Donar had a 3-0 advantage over Felling after a scoreless first period. Felling would score two points in the final frame, but Donar held on for the 3-2 win.
At 174 lbs., senior Matt Maciag (Sussex, N.J.) matched up against junior Justin Peterson (Comstock, Wis.). Peterson is another Badger moving down weight classes this season after he wrestled at 184 lbs. last year. In the match, Maciag defeated Peterson 9-1 to regain his starting position.
Badger fans got a first look at another freshman, Gage Szablewski. The Lake Park, Ill., native took on redshirt freshman Eric Bugenhagen at 184 lbs. Bugenhagen scored first with a takedown in the first period but Szablewski got on the board with an escape in the second. In the third, Bugenhagen tallied two more points to finish the match, 4-1.
Wisconsin’s final co-captain, Dallas Herbst (Winneconne, Wis.) faced redshirt freshman Calyn Hull (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at 197 lbs. The score remained close at 2-1 in the first but Herbst would score the final five points to earn his starting spot back with a 7-1 win.
Finally, the heavyweight match had the least scoring of the night. Junior Kyle Massey (Champlin, Minn.) took on sophomore Jordan Hein and after a scoreless first, Massey was the only one to get on the board with a one-point escape. Massey also regained his spot in the starting lineup with a 1-0 decision.
Wisconsin continues the 2007-08 campaign Friday, Nov. 2, in Green Bay when they take on UW-Oshkosh and Dubuque at the KI Convention Center. Stay tuned to uwbadgers.com throughout the season wrestling updates and scores.