MSU opens Big Ten wrestling play with Badgers
As the fall semester draws to a close, the wrestling team’s season is just starting to heat up.
The Spartans (5-3 overall) will partake in their first Big Ten matchup of the season against No. 16 Wisconsin (6-3) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Jenison Field House.
This will be the first hack MSU will get against a Big Ten opponent since finishing last season 0-8 in the conference.
“The Big Ten is a remarkably tough conference,” head coach Tom Minkel said. “For us, Wisconsin is a winnable duel, but we’re going to have to wrestle well.”
Wisconsin will pit five wrestlers in the lineup that are ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight class.
MSU, who features five new wrestlers to the lineup, will be led by the three returners who went to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Despite a young team, 184-pound junior John Rizqallah said this year’s team is different than squad he has been on in the past.
“The team I’m wrestling with now is a lot different than the team I’ve wrestled with in the past,” he said. “These guys are just a lot tougher than we’ve ever been. These are the type of guys I would want to fight with. If we would walk into the bars or something, these are the type of guys I would take with me.”
Rizqallah, heavyweight senior Mike McClure and 157-pound junior Ryan Watts were three of four MSU wrestlers in the NCAA Tournament and they will bring a great deal of experience to the youthful lineup.
All three wrestlers will go up against ranked opponents with the headline match possibly being heavyweight Connor Medbery, who is ranked No. 6 in the nation, against No. 11 McClure.
Medbery was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season and finished with a 25-8 record on his way to an NCAA Tournament berth.
So far this season, Medbery is 14-0.
McClure is 10-2 this season and picked up three wins last weekend at the Northeast Duals. He pinned North Carolina’s Bob Coe in the final match of MSU’s meet against UNC, which gave MSU the 22-19 victory.
Rizqallah, who is 10-2, will go up against No. 15 Jackson Hein for Wisconsin. Hein finished 7th in the NCAA Tournament last season and is 8-2 this season.
Watts will go up against No. 10 Isaac Jordan, who is a freshman for Wisconsin. Jordan and No. 19 125-pounder Ryan Taylor already are contributing for the Badgers.