The Maryland wrestling team earned its first victory of the season Nov. 27 against Columbia but has had to wait about two weeks for a chance to return to the mat.
This weekend, the Terps will look to build on the win with three matches in a quick turnaround.
Coach Kerry McCoy's team travels to Fairfax, Virginia, to take on North Dakota State and George Mason on Friday before returning to College Park to host No. 12 Rutgers in its Big Ten opener on Sunday.
"The guys are excited," McCoy said. "Three tough matches, so it's an opportunity to compete. Some people will get their first couple matches under their belt, which is exciting for them. Overall, it's just being excited about going out, competing and trying to get some Ws."
For the grapplers who might compete for the first time, McCoy is trying to match their skills with the competitors.
The team plans to weigh multiple wrestlers in different weight classes to give them options. North Dakota State has two grapplers ranked on InterMat while Rutgers has four, so McCoy wants to create favorable matchups against the strong opposition. The scouting process entering the weekend determines which grappler best counters the foes, he said.
"We want to put the best 10 guys out there that give us the best chances to win," McCoy said. "Sometimes it's not known until the last minute, depending on how the match is going and who the other team has lining up."
True freshman 125-pounder Alex Vargas is one wrestler the team could shuffle. He has split time with junior Michael Beck at his typical weight class and also wrestled at 133 pounds against Columbia after injury forced redshirt junior Tyler Goodwin out of contention.
Vargas' position reflects McCoy's diverse expectations and the squad's emphasis on scouting. The Syosset, New York, native prepares for one opponent at a time. Vargas said he likes to target who he's up against without anticipating future matchups.
Vargas will use that mindset in the Terps' hectic weekend, a three-outing cluster redshirt senior Billy Rappo said doesn't happen often. Rappo, meanwhile, faces solid competition from the Bison and Patriots on Friday and squares off with Rutgers' sixth-ranked Anthony Ashnault on Sunday.
"I'm pretty excited," Rappo said. "It's one of the first Friday-Sunday duals, especially for most of the team but even for myself. It will be a little different mindset."
He then expressed the same idea as McCoy and Vargas — taking the slate one match at a time. Regardless of the result, Rappo knows it's important to be ready for the next one.
"If you lose, you've got to make sure you mentally prepare yourself and bounce back," Rappo said. "You come back and be prepared for Sunday. There will be some good competition this weekend."
McCoy and the two grapplers refrained from focusing much on Rutgers before Friday's clashes occur, despite the Scarlet Knights being one of the best programs in the Big Ten and the country.
They want to take a present approach against North Dakota State and George Mason, starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, when some wrestlers could experience their first action of the season, and hope to build on their last outing's success.
"That should be everyone's mindset," Rappo said. You've got to go out, win every match and be better."