2/2/20 Wisconsin, Max Lyon, Johnny Sebastian

Junior Max Lyon evades an attack from Wisconsin senior Johnny Sebastian on Feb. 2. Sebastian won the 174-pound match 4-3.

Purdue wrestling has reeled in four top-four preseeds going into the Big Ten Championships in Piscataway, New Jersey, this weekend.

Placing high in the event is the primary way for Boilers to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

“I like where we’re at,” head coach Tony Ersland said. “We’ve had a really good training cycle the last couple weeks, so I feel like we’ve made jumps in both our shape and some of the technical errors we were making before.”

Purdue (12-5, 5-4 Big Ten) was in action most recently against Illinois (10-4, 6-3) on Feb. 16, taking the meet 18-14 to secure a winning Big Ten record. Missing from the lineup were redshirt freshman Kendall Coleman and senior Christian Brunner, each out with injuries from the dual meet season.

Since the meet, the team has had time to prepare for Big Ten teams and recover from injuries. The training was structured with this in mind.

“We work hard a couple days in a row and then we have that third day, which is more of an active recovery day,” Ersland said. “Certainly the physical toll on the body is less.”

Junior Devin Schroder is Purdue’s highest-seeded wrestler since 2013, earning the 2-seed at 125 pounds.

“It feels good to see all the hard work from the season pay off, but I know it doesn’t mean anything,” Schroder said. “Let’s go out there and perform.”

Last season, Schroder had an injury which prevented him from seeing competition for nearly a month prior to the tournament.

“I think last year’s experience, being hurt, helped out this year as well,” Schroder said. “Just remembering to be thankful and grateful. It helps me compete and wrestle freely.”

The Big Ten holds 25 more automatic bids than any other conference and averages over twice as many bids as the other conferences. This means that even Purdue’s lower-seeded wrestlers could secure a bid with one or two quality wins.

“My expectations are very high for them going in, especially if you look at a young man like Max Lyon,” Ersland said. “He had like three 1-point losses to guys who were seeded in front of him. ... Those are easy matches to turn around.”

Following the strongest dual season under Ersland’s leadership, expectations are high for tournament performances both this weekend and at the NCAAs.

“Down the line up 25 to heavyweight, you see guys go out there and wrestle their tails off for seven minutes. We feed off each other’s energy,” Schroder said. “It makes it a lot easier just vibing off each other.”

The championships begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rutgers Athletic Center.

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