What a difference a week can make.
Seven days after losing all three dual matches in the season opening match at the Lakeland Duals, the UW-Eau Claire wrestling team came on strong at the Augsburg Open and had many noticeable finishers.
The meet had more than 300 wrestlers, including many from ranked schools, but team scores were not taken because it was an individual meet.
Coach Don Parker said he was hoping to have athletes in a lot of matches and the result was a few high individual placings.
“I think the veterans are really coming to right now, it was a very, very tough tournament,” Parker said. “Augsburg is the top ranked Div. III school, Upper Iowa is Div. II, plus the University of Minnesota had a couple guys there.”
Increased mat time since last weekend’s match also helped the team improve, Parker said.
“More practice and matches means you get better and that’s what I want,” he said. “We still have a lot of our young guys that need a lot of matches and we’re still juggling the line up so it’s not stabilized yet . we’ll be stronger come January.”
Junior Josh Holforty said the team looked much different this weekend compared to last week and leadership was key for the team.
“We have a few core guys that really show great leadership and it carries over into every match and practice,” Holforty said. “It was the little things, like the team didn’t hesitate as much when getting in on shots and we looked more focused and confident.”
Parker said the team started a bit slow, but things eventually got moving and the team showed good effort in improving from last weekend.
“We started a little slow but the upper weight guys started going and ended up wrestling really well,” he said. “Our young guys kind of took it on the chin but they were up against some really good kids, especially in the 125 pound weight class, where they had the No. 2 ranked kid in the nation and a couple others.”
In the gold class, Holforty finished the match 4-0 and took first in the 197- pound weight class. He said he’s never wrestled as hard as he did Saturday.
“I felt like I wrestled tougher than I ever have at college,” Holforty said. “It was a pretty exciting tournament and I feel like I’m a lot more confident and focused than last year.”
Parker said Holforty has matured a lot since last year, and one thing that has helped him out greatly is his practice room time.
“Last year he was out for football so he was only in the practice room for a week,” Parker said. “This year he’s doing really well and it’s really helped him.”
Junior Dave Heser took fourth in the 197-pound weight class and sophomore heavyweight junior John Berlin took first place in the silver class.
As a team, Holforty said the Blugolds need to take everything one step at a time and stay focused on what they’re doing on the mat.
Eau Claire goes up against Luther College at home on Tuesday, a team Parker said shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Luther is going to be strong,” he said. “We’re not at full strength but we’ll go in there and fight with them.”
Parker said Luther was in the same position as Eau Claire last year, without a consistent line up.
“All I ever ask is for the guys to give their best even if they’re outmatched,” Parker said. “I think we had a good effort and are improving each week and that’s what we want for things to start falling into place.”