Ray takes first at Kaufman-Brand Open
Two contagious factors are in play for the Wolverine grapplers right now: the belief they can nationally contend and the injury bug.
The latter they would just as soon leave behind. The former, according to Coach Greg Williams, is something that needs to continue filtering down the entire roster.
It has already started at the top. One week after Ben Kjar won first in his weight class at Laramie, Wyo., senior Flint Ray did the same at the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, Neb.
The senior 133-pounder went 5-0 en route to his title, dominating his way to a final he would win via injury default. Ray’s performance strengthened his own self-assurance as a potential All-American.
“I think what I can take from [Omaha] is a lot of confidence,” Ray said. “I know that I’m on that level. When you get a roll going, you start feeling good about your wrestling, and that confidence kind of rolls over to the next match.”
That confidence, a focal point during the offseason, has been evident to Williams since the season started.
“[Flint’s] been wrestling all fall like he’s going to win when he steps out there no matter who he wrestles,” Williams said. “That’s a big step. He can go out there now and it doesn’t matter if the guy’s ranked first in the country or unranked.”
Kjar placed second in the 125-pound class, while Josh Wilson (149) took fourth and Jeb Clark (165) placed fifth.
Wilson’s success on the mat comes as a long-awaited result. The sophomore grappler redshirted his freshman year before sitting out last season as a medical redshirt due to a knee injury.
Wilson’s strides come despite a strained hamstring, which forced him to forfeit the third-place match. His is just one of the several injuries that have hit the Wolverines in recent weeks.
Clark is dealing with injuries to his shoulders, back and hamstring. Junior Brad Darrington (174) is battling knee and shoulder issues, and fellow 174-pounder Casen Eldredge is just returning from an injury he still hasn’t fully recovered from. Phillip Sorensen (197) is also coming back after three weeks off due to injury.
“Conditioning wise, we’re where we need to be,” Williams said. “I’m happy with where we are. I don’t think there’s a ton of things we have to get done before the end of the year. “
“We mostly just have to get healthy, and we’ll be ready.”