All season, Maryland wrestling coach Kerry McCoy has insisted everything the team has done is building toward the Big Ten and NCAA Championships in March.
So even after a 45-6 loss to No. 2 Penn State last weekend left the Terps winless in the Big Ten, their mindset remains the same entering their final two regular season matches against Rider and Drexel on Saturday.
"At this point of the year, we're just focusing on getting our guys ready for the postseason," McCoy said. "But we don't overlook any competition. We want to finish out the dual meet season strong."
Maryland (2-14, 0-9 Big Ten) will first wrestle Rider in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, at 3 p.m. before traveling about 45 minutes to Philadelphia to grapple Drexel a few hours later.
McCoy said it's rare for the Terps to schedule two duals in the same day but isn't concerned. That's why he accepted to wrestle Drexel on Saturday night after already scheduling Rider for the afternoon. The veteran coach figured his wrestlers would benefit from extra matches with the conference championships about two weeks away.
McCoy said the team will benefit from wrestling twice Saturday because those who make the postseason may have to compete multiple times in a day. The Terps will also go against stiff competition, as both teams feature multiple ranked wrestlers.
The grapplers' results won't impact where they're seeded in the Big Ten Tournament, but they can affect whether or not some Terps qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Maryland's standout wrestler this season has been 149-pound Alfred Bannister, who is ranked No. 15 and 11-0 in duals. However, Bannister hasn't competed since Jan. 15 with an undisclosed injury. McCoy said Bannister's status is uncertain for Saturday, but added he wants to make sure the redshirt sophomore is 100 percent for the Big Ten tournament.
Other grapplers have performed well, but their current resume may not be sufficient to make the postseason.
Two grapplers in that position are 141-pound redshirt senior Billy Rappo and 197-pound redshirt freshman David-Brian Whisler. Both will face one ranked opponent this weekend, crucial opportunities to increase their chances of making the NCAA tournament.
"These last two matches are very crucial for me," Rappo said. "I'm right on the bubble, so I really need these wins. I need to find ways to win these matches."
"I've got two pretty tough matches," 197-pounder Whisler added. "Winning these will really help me see where I'm at before the Big Ten tournament and nationals."
Despite the priority being placed on competitions after this weekend, the Terps can still find value in Saturday's matches from a team and individual standpoint.
"Ending the season on two wins, that's the goal — individually and for the team," Whisler said. "We had a couple tough matches over the last few weeks, so ending on a good note will give us momentum heading into the conference tournament."