The Maryland wrestling team endured several injuries that forced it to rotate its lineup and give young grapplers experience this weekend.
Facing seven combined ranked opponents between North Dakota State on Friday and No. 12 Rutgers on Sunday, the Terps lost both matches, 22-12 and 21-13, respectively. Later they earned a 38-3 victory over George Mason as part of a double-header.
Of those seven matchups against ranked wrestlers, the Terps won two. No. 12 149-pounder Alfred Bannister beat Rutgers' No. 15 Ken Theobold, while 157-pounder Justin Alexander upset Rutgers' No. 20 John Van Brill.
Coach Kerry McCoy said earning the victories over ranked opponents was a positive note that helped his team gain confidence. He said if the Terps continue to carry that belief, "The sky is the limit."
"Our guys have been working hard, and we put a lot of faith in our guys," McCoy said. "They put a lot of work in, and the more they believe in it, the better the results."
Bannister, whose takedown in the third period earned him the 3-2 decision over Theobold, said his mindset contributed to fending off his ranked opponent.
"Wrestling these guys that are ranked, my mentality is, 'If I want to reach my goals, I have to go through this guy,'" Bannister said. "That was my mentality throughout the match. By any means, I wasn't going to lose."
However, those wins were only part of the weekend. Because of injuries to several wrestlers who likely would have started if healthy, the Terps moved wrestlers between classes.
With No. 11 Tyler Goodwin out, Jhared Simmons wrestled at 133 pounds and went 2-0 on Friday. However, Simmons sat out against Rutgers, forcing 125-pounder Michael Beck to move up a weight class Sunday.
Meanwhile, Danny Boychuck wrestled at 157 and 165 pounds over the weekend, and 174-pounder Idris White wrestled at 184 in Jaron Smith's absence. The Terps also relied on six freshmen.
McCoy acknowledged the close nature of a few matches had tinges of a moral victory, but he wants the Terps to complete the result. Still, he was impressed by his team's flexibility.
"Look at a situation where Idris White moves up a weight class and wrestles against a top-20 ranked guy [No. 12 Nicholas Gravina of Rutgers]," McCoy said. "It wasn't really pretty, but he kept a close match out there. Finding ways to do what you can to help the team, if you can't get a win make sure you minimize the damage — those are things that are important to recognize."
Three Terps went undefeated: in addition to Simmons' two victories, Bannister and 197-pounder David-Brian Whisler won all three of their matches. Bannister is nationally ranked, but Whisler, a redshirt freshman, is still in a learning curve.
"I noticed this year I'm doing a lot more extra than I did last year," Whisler said. "The redshirt year is a lot different from starting, and you've got to take it a little more serious. A lot of extra work is paying off."
McCoy's team has about a month before its next duals in January, but he said the Terps will use the results from the weekend as a stepping stone for improvement over the rest of the season.
"We can turn those around relatively easy with a little adjustment in effort, and a little adjustment in attitude, consistently," McCoy said. "I'm pretty happy with where we are right now, but we're going to be a lot better in the coming weeks and months."