EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State wrestling had 18 wrestlers in action last weekend at the 2017 United World Wrestling University Nationals in Akron, Ohio and the Spartans had a solid outing in their final action of the freestyle season.
“Like I said prior to the event, we train for a while, and then you go out there and compete and it exposes a lot of the areas that we need to work on as a program. Just like I told the team at the conclusion of the tournament, we still need to work on attacking more as a program,” MSU head coach Roger Chandler said.
Chandler and the Spartans enter the offseason after their final freestyle action and know what to prepare for in preparations for the 2017-18 season.
“If you want to put yourself in a position to win matches then you have to be able to have effective attacks, and then the second thing was we need to go back to the fundamentals of good defense so that we can defend shots as well. That goes down to sprawling, to hand fighting. The first line of defense is hand fighting and the second line of defense, if they should get through your hand fighting, is sprawling. If we do better in those areas I think we’ll continue to grow as a program. I think everybody understands that. At the same time not many guys on the team have much freestyle experience which was pretty evident but at the same time I’m always encouraged that we had so many guys step up and compete last weekend because that’s the expectation for the program,” Chandler said of his 18 Spartans he had in action in Akron.
A handful of the 18 MSU wrestlers who were competing in Akron stood out to Chandler.
“Matt Santos had a good weekend for us. He wrestled at 61 kg and will be at 133 pounds for us in the future. He beat a national qualifier as one of his two wins. He was attacking and doing some of the things that we expect out of our guys. He did some good things,” Chandler said. “Austin Eicher won three matches. He was out of his weight class but he did what you would expect out of a two-time national qualifier. He was competitive and he was attacking out there. Austin Thompson, I think if he was in a little bit better of conditioning shape, he could’ve gone further in the tournament but I think that held him back just a little bit.”
In addition to Santos and Eicher, who were a true freshman and redshirt sophomore this past season for the Spartans, Chandler also recognized two other true freshmen in Christian Rebottaro and Jake Tucker. Of the 18 wrestlers that MSU had competing, Eicher was the lone redshirt sophomore, along with three redshirt freshmen and 14 true freshmen from the 2016-17 season.
“You couldn’t tell on paper with Christian Rebottaro but he out-wrestled his opponents both matches. He lost both matches only because of his aggressiveness. He’s going to be okay, I’m optimistic about his future and where he’s headed. Jake Tucker, he’s probably one of the most talented guys in the program. He goes back to what I said there originally is that fundamentally, he has to be attacking and has to have good defense to put himself in position to win matches. Our guys just need more experience in freestyle and they’re going to continue to do it. It was big time national event,” Chandler said.
Michigan State’s future is bright as the Spartans only lost three seniors from 2016-17, Chandler’s first season at the helm of the MSU program. The Spartans’ 10th-place finish at the Big Ten Championships was their highest since also placing 10th at the 2012 Championships. MSU’s 38.5 points nearly matches its point total of the last three years combined of 44.5 after 10.5 points in 2016, 12.5 points in 2015 and 21.5 points in 2014. The 38.5 points is also the Spartans’ highest point total since 41.5 in 2012, showing the signs of the program’s progress in the first year under Chandler.
While last weekend was the final team action of the freestyle season, one Spartan will still be in action, as Rebottaro will be wrestling at the 2017 United World Wrestling (UWW) Junior World Team Trials this weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Fans can follow all of the action in Lincoln with live results and streaming on FloWrestling.org. The World Team Trials are also live on Roku and Apple TV.