OSU wrestling still confident after slow start
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 00:01
Coming off a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Tournament and a Pac-12 championship last season, expectations for Oregon State wrestling were high going into this season.
OSU lost only two main contributors from last season — Clayton Jack and Garrett Drucker — and currently have five wrestlers ranked in the top 25 for their weight class.
But, even with all the talent and returning experience, the Beavers have been inconsistent.
Though the Beavers have performed well in their meets thus far — third in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, sixth at the Midlands Championships and first in the Tournament of Champions — they enter the week with a dual record of only 2-3-1.
Despite the mediocre dual record, they’re is encouraged by the way they’ve wrestled as of late, and expect to improve in the coming weeks.
“Some guys are young, but we just have to stop doing some stupid mistakes, and if we do that then we’ll be fine,” said head coach Jim Zalesky. “I think we have five weights where we can compete with anybody in the country, and in those other weights we just need to bring some guys along.”
“I think we should be 4-0,” added No. 10 RJ Pena, a 157-pound junior. “If our team comes out and wrestles how we can, and to the best of our ability, we can and should win all of those duals.”
Getting back on track in a dual setting will be vital considering the bulk of Oregon State’s Pac-12 schedule is fast approaching.
Though it’s still relatively early in the season, Oregon State has already wrestled Pac-12 opponent, No. 18 Boise State, twice. OSU split the series with a win (on Nov. 24) and a loss (last Saturday).
Oregon State had won three consecutive duals with the Broncos — probably OSU’s toughest Pac-12 opponent — so the close loss was significant.
“It was bonus points, but also some other things,” Zalesky said. “We won some matches we didn’t the first time, but lost some that we won as well. Sometimes when you wrestle a team like that it’s going to happen, but we just gave up too many bonus points.”
The reason for the slow start in the dual schedule is the level of competition OSU has faced. Three of the four teams Oregon State has met are ranked in the top 25.
The Beavers hope the tough slate will help them when the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament rolls around.
“I think our [schedule] is going to help us,” Zalesky said. “We know where we’re at and where our individuals have to work. Going into these next two months, before the end of the year, we know exactly what our guys need to work on. And as a coach, that’s what you want to do.”
One of the many bright spots for OSU has been the wrestling of No. 5 Chad Hanke, a heavyweight senior.
Clayton Jack finished fourth in the nation last year in the heavyweight class for OSU, and left some big shoes to fill.
Hanke — who was an Olympic redshirt last year and enters the season as a senior — has been a vital part to the success OSU has had so far this season.
“[Chad’s] been awesome,” Pena said. “Clayton had a huge role last year as a heavyweight, and we knew that was a role that we had to fill, and Chad’s done an amazing job. He won one of the biggest tournaments of the year at Midland and has been wrestling really tough. He definitely could have a chance to win the national title.”
Despite a couple of nagging injuries, Hanke has already won the Mike Clock Open and Midlands Championships, and has performed brilliantly in duals all season. Still, Hanke expects to improve going forward.
“I’m not wrestling my best yet,” Hanke said. “Once I get completely healthy I think towards the end of the year I’ll be doing a lot better and [be] where I want to be.”
Like Hanke, Oregon State hopes to improve as the season progresses. The Beavers expect to improve for the upcoming stretch of duals, and are still focused on winning a team national championship.
“We can win the national title as a team if we all wrestle well,” Pena said. “I think we can, if we peak at the right time and keep getting better at what we need to get better at.”
Andrew Kilstrom, sports reporter