Wrestling hosted their first Cougar Clash event at the Vadalabene Center, where teams from across the country fought to reach the top of the tournament bracket on Sunday.
Matches ran nearly all day as each weight class competed in their respective matches. The Clash saw two of SIUE’s own take home third place in their classes, with three more placing in the top six.
Although Sunday’s clash marked their second large tournament and the first hosted at SIUE, the Cougars’ wrestling season is far from over.
Head Coach Jeremy Spates affirmed setting up the event was no easy task.
“There were a few things the day before like ‘oh, do we have ankle bands?’ — just little logistical things. Unfortunately, we had some TrackWrestling, what we run [the tournament] on, software glitches,” Spates said.
Generally, the team travels to their matches, which are held everywhere from Iowa to Southern Florida.
According to Spates, their home matches act as somewhat of a rest for the team and a time to relax between big-ticket matches across the country.
“This was a nice event for our guys because we didn’t have to travel. They got to wrestle in their own gym and sleep in their own beds last night. Also, when you look at a big tournament like this ... it’s kind of an eye-opener for some of these guys,” Spates said.
After ironing out the kinks, Spates and his staff started the tournament where 10 weight classes competed. Wrestlers from schools spanning from Arizona to Wisconsin showed up.
SIUE’s wrestlers came prepared, even though none took first in their class. 157-pound freshman Justin Ruffin placed fourth in his weight class at the Clash.
“Throughout the week, we prepare ourselves and keep our weight down so we aren’t struggling towards the end. We have our hard practices at the beginning of the week so we aren’t wearing our bodies out and have our easier practices towards the end of the week,” Ruffin said.
As the tournament continued, the brackets narrowed, with SIUE’s 184-pound freshman Sergio Villalobos, 165-pound redshirt senior Nate Higgins and 174-pound sophomore Kevin Gschwendtner placing in the top six of their weight classes. 197-pound senior Christian Dulaney and 149-pound redshirt junior Tyshawn Williams both took third place finishes at the tournament.
The wrestlers who didn’t place highly still put in time for the tournament, following Spate’s philosophy of preparing equally well for every match, not just for a big event.
“We actually train really hard and really up to tempo. There’s no reason for me not to take care of business after we worked so hard,” Williams said.
SIUE placed fifth overall with a team score of 55.0. Arizona State placed first overall with 136.0 points, while Army and Wisconsin tied for second with 127.5 points
Now with the first Cougar Clash in the books, the team is off to compete at Mizzou at 1 p.m. Sunday in Columbia, Missouri.