There’s a buzz circulating Maryland wrestling’s practices in the buildup to this weekend.
After a season-opening, dual meet loss to Penn, the Terps welcome Navy on Friday and Central Michigan on Sunday, hoping to bounce back from the 26-6 defeat in Philadelphia last week. And as the Midshipmen visit College Park — a team Maryland hasn’t beaten since the 2011-12 season — there’s added significance to an early-season matchup.
So, ahead of a rivalry match, coach Kerry McCoy’s squad will not only look to rebound from last week’s loss, but also look to secure a positive result against Navy.
“There’s no secret,” McCoy said. “It’s a big match”
In 2012, when Maryland went to Annapolis and beat Navy, Jimmy Sheptock was competing as a 174-pounder and ranked No. 15 in the country. His major decision distanced the Terps and Midshipmen en route to a 23-12 win in the in-state contest.
Now, as an associate head coach for Maryland, Sheptock is helping to build energy before the Terps face Navy once again. Alfred Bannister, a 149-pound senior, also stresses the importance of this particular dual meet for the program.
“We vocalize it. Coach vocalizes, we vocalize it here in the room and in the locker room,” Bannister said. “It goes all the way back to when Jimmy was a wrestler here. He always brings the energy this time of year, and we try to bring it, too.”
No.18-ranked Bannister is coming off a tough matchup against No. 17 Anthony Artalona, leading to a dual meet loss last week. Bannister’s slate doesn’t get any easier — he’s set to face No. 19 Jared Prince on Navy.
With another tough bout ahead of him, a solid performance from Bannister could set the tone for the Terps, who are looking to buck past trends against their in-state rival.
184-pounder Kyle Jasenski, who picked up his first-career win against Penn, knows that preparing for a rival raises the intensity. But he doesn’t want to change his mindset.
“I have the same focus going into every match,” Jasenski said. “Just wrestle hard.”
Heavyweight Youssif Hemida has yet to make his season debut for the Terps after winning a silver medal at the U-23 World Championships in Russia last month. If Hemida goes against Central Michigan, he’ll likely face the No.19 Matt Stencel.
Should Hemida sit again, Mansur Abdul-Malik will take his place, as he did against Penn.
McCoy knows his team has come up short against Navy the last seven seasons. While he wants to change that, he also wants Maryland to focus on steady progression, leading to a peak as the NCAA tournament begins in three months.
“We don’t want to get the guys too hyped up too early, but beating Navy at home is something we’d like to [do],” McCoy said. “The plan is always preparation for March. We don’t zero in and say we need to have everything set and have our best performance of the year against Navy. It’s along the way and we want to win, but the whole plan is to get ready for March.
Due to the short week, McCoy admits he’s not looking ahead to Central Michigan and will deal with that preparation after facing Navy.
“You want to focus on the one that’s right in front of you,” McCoy said. “All of our focus is on Navy.”
Bannister is also conscious of the fact that a short week means the wrestlers have to prepare a little differently, too.
“Gotta watch our nutrition,” he said. “We can’t blow up because we have to get right back on the scale in two days.”
So, before facing Central Michigan to close the weekend, all eyes are geared toward Navy. And the recent losing streak against the Midshipmen is something the Terps are eager to amend.
“We’re a Big Ten team,” Bannister said. “If we can’t win in our own state, there’s a problem.”