Every day this week there has been a sign hanging on the MSU wrestling training room door to motivate the team to focus on the little things and be persistent, because the team is counting on them.
Coming off a weekend that saw the Spartans (4-6, 0-3 Big Ten) lose three dual meets to Clarion, UNC and No. 1 Penn State, they will need to more be persistent than ever if they want to knock off No. 3 Iowa at 2 p.m. Sunday in Jenison Field House.
“As I told our kids, we can take this experience one of two ways,” head coach Tom Minkel said.
“One, is we can be discouraged and feel bad about it. Or we can use it as a positive experience. It was a great environment to wrestle in, very adversary, but at the same time a great preparation for the Big Tens and NCAAs.”
Iowa competes against No. 18 Michigan on Friday before traveling to East Lansing on Sunday to face off against their only unranked opponent left on the schedule.
Minkel said although the Hawkeyes are two spots behind Penn State in the rankings, the Spartans need to wrestle just as hard if they want to pull off the upset.
“There’s no doubt about it, Iowa is every bit as tough as Penn State,” Minkel said. “We need to improve this week over last weekend, and I’m pretty confident we will.”
Michigan State has lost four straight meets to Iowa, including a 29-10 defeat the last time the two teams competed in 2010.
Sophomore 184-pounder John Rizqallah, who was pinned by the No. 1 wrestler at his weight class against Penn State, said MSU might have been overpowered by Penn State, but they fell like they had a good performance against one of the best programs in the country.
“Against Penn State, not so much disappointment,” Rizqallah said. “We didn’t wrestle good by any means; sometimes you’re just outgunned. We lost, but we fought.”
For Rizqallah and the Spartans, not all of their goals are in front of them anymore, but he said there are many that they still can accomplish this weekend against yet another tough opponent.
“We can’t accomplish all the goals,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and fight, and (have) that as a goal. We’re just going to go out there, and let the results be the results. It will be accomplished.”
The road doesn’t get any easier from here for MSU, as the rest of the schedule is filled with meets against ranked teams including No. 4 Minnesota, No. 12 Central Michigan, No. 13 Nebraska and No. 15 Northwestern.
For sophomore 197-pounder Luke Jones, coming home will be a much needed relief. He said MSU will use the experiences they learned from last weekend’s trip to springboard themselves to perform against the Hawkeyes.
“Even though we lost to Penn State, we wrestled really tough against them, and that’s the top of the nation,” Jones said. “Everybody else is below them. Some of us wrestled really close to people ranked really high in the nation, it just gives us confidence that we’re not too far from the top.”