After a disappointing 30-10 loss to Iowa State on Friday night, the MSU wrestling team had an extra long meeting in the locker room to discuss what went wrong.
In the matches the Spartans (4-13 overall, 0-8 Big Ten) lost, all of them were for bonus points, including six major decisions and one pin.
The only three wins for MSU came from senior 149-pounder Dan Osterman, sophomore 157-pounder Ryan Watts, and a major decision from heavyweight No. 7 junior Mike McClure.
“I’ve got a really young team, and they’re really frustrated,” head coach Tom Minkel said. “It’s hard for all of us. Our challenge is to stay positive and stay focused and stay on the right track when you’re getting the crap beat out of you.”
He said it’s frustrating for the coaches as well, as it is a fine line he must walk as far as how hard to push his team.
Minkel said his job is harder after a tough loss like the one suffered to Iowa State, and he tries to use the golden rule in a coaching situation like this.
“I try to treat them like I want to be treated,” he said. “You have a feeling that you wanna scream at them, but after a kid really struggled you might keep them from ever recovering. We’ve got to face the reality, and reality can be pretty hard and pretty harsh.”
Watts won his match 2-1, with each competitor getting one escape. With 1:08 in riding time, he got just enough to seal the win.
He said his strategy was to get points early, but that changed when it became apparent his opponent was well prepared.
“(I was) just trying to stay focused on some of the things we’ve worked on through the week,” Watts said. “I feel like he already knew a lot of my technique, so he really wrestled to his advantage and tried to keep the match close. It wasn’t until the second period that I was able to ride it out and get an advantage time point.”
McClure dominated his opponent, picking up the 9-1 major decision and improving his season record to 28-3.
He said the biggest thing the team as a whole needs to improve on is their attitude.
“A lot of those close matches, it comes down to who wants it more,” McClure said. “(The) season is winding down, so we’re trying to fix all the things that we can fix right now. That’s just little position things, and a lot of it’s attitude.”
Even Iowa State’s gold medal-winning head coach Kevin Jackson said McClure has the capability of being an All-American if he keeps wrestling the way he is.
Minkel said he uses McClure as an example for the entire team to strive for, because that could be any of them.
“Mike wasn’t even a starter last year, and he didn’t go to Big Tens or NCAAs,” Minkel said. “He used to make a lot of bad mistakes, but now he listens, he understands (and) he’s focused. He makes adjustments, and he’s one of the best heavyweights in the country.”
The next time the Spartans are on the mat will be senior day against No. 12 Central Michigan at 7 p.m. this Friday at Jenison Field House.
With such a young team, Minkel said this has been a year of growing pains, and that a year from now, it will be a whole different story.
“The things that work in high school don’t work here and the level that you’re wrestling is so much different,” Minkel said. “My job is trying to keep them from getting so discouraged that they don’t compete well. We’ve got to face that and man up and it isn’t easy.”