Grapplers Lock in on Minneapolis

The hottest wrestling team in the conference, winning its last dual meets all against top-10 teams, the eighth-ranked Wisconsin wrestling team heads to Minneapolis looking for the school's first-ever tournament championship.

MADISON – The whole adage in sports goes that you want to be playing your best as a team and as individuals when you head into the post season.

When the Wisconsin wrestling team heads to Minneapolis this Saturday and Sunday for the Big Ten Conference Tournament, the No.8 Badgers will be following that mantra.

Over its last three dual meets, Wisconsin (14-4-1, 5-3 Big Ten) has beaten then-No.10 Michigan by two, won at then-No.4 Minnesota by three and upended then-No.10 Northwestern by three. Finishing in a four-way tie for third place in the conference, Wisconsin won all three matches coming from behind, trailing by as many as six points and still win.

"The last week has produced some good wins and has built some momentum for us," head coach Barry Davis said. "Guys are wrestling well right now and have good training the last week and half."

Wisconsin will have six pre-seeded grapplers when they hit the mats Saturday. Led by sophomore Kyle Ruschell, a 2007 Big Ten runner-up, received the highest pre-seed for Wisconsin at No. 2 for 141 lbs.

Ruschell finished the regular season 23-5 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten duals.

In addition to Ruschell, the hottest Badger right now is junior heavyweight Kyle Massey. At 25-5 overall, Massey is on an 11-match winning streak, not losing since Dec.10, and is coming off a win over Northwestern's Dustin Fox, who was ranked the top heavyweight in the country.

Two years removed from duel ACL surgery in both knees, Massey is having his best season of his collegiate career.

"The biggest difference for me has been on a strength basis," he said. "Last year, my knees were 100 percent but I did not have the strength. This summer and this season have been much more focused on getting that strength back."

Winning points in the Badgers' last three wins of the season, Massey has ascended to the second-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the country.

"It's not so much that I am ranked than if an opponent that I have coming up is ranked.," Massey said "It use to mean a little more before but it really doesn't mean a whole lot. I know how I need to go wrestle certain guys. But I feel like I am wrestling my best and when I wrestle my best, I know I can beat anybody."

With the Big Ten conference being one of the toughest conferences in the nation, having eight of the 11 teams ranked in the top 13, the conference meet will give the Badgers a chance to improve on last year's historic finish.

Garnering 100.5 points last year, the Badgers finished second, its highest finish since 1992, and highest finish under Davis.

With the conference being just as tough and the Badgers being a year more experienced, Wisconsin will have a shot to win its first conference crown.

"The Big Ten is just as tough this year, if not tougher, than it was last year," Davis said. "We've got more expectations and higher expectations going into the post season. We probably have a better team than last year because we have more experience. It's time to take the experience and do something with it …If we talk care of all that and go on the offensive against our opponent, we'll be success."

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