EAST LANSING, Mich. — College wrestling was an eye-opener for Max Lyon.
He became aware of the steep learning curve that comes with competing at the NCAA Division I level. Of course, the task is more daunting for a freshman in his first year.
“I got to college and I realized very quickly I didn’t know anything,” said Lyon, a two-time state champion and three-time finalist for Western Dubuque. “I got so much better at every position.”
Lyon stepped in to the 184-pound starting spot for Purdue and has quickly adapted to the higher level. He went 1-1 in the opening session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
“In college, everything is a lot faster,” said Lyon, who was 18-14 before his second consolation bout. “Technique is a lot more crisp. You have to be a lot more intentional with stuff. My goal this year has been to get better every match and I feel like I’ve been doing that all year.
“I know I’m wrestling the best I’ve ever have. For me, that’s already that’s a personal win.”
Purdue Coach Tony Ersland, a Humboldt native who wrestled for Dan Gable at the University of Iowa, praised Lyon for his attitude and work ethic. He said that Lyon owns the skills to be successful and has made progress in the technical aspects of his wrestling, which was evident in his 12-2 major decision over Maryland’s Niko Cappello in the consolation round.
“He’s making strides,” Ersland said. “He’s got that naturally aggressive attitude and he’s in great shape. He has some good attacks. The hand-fighting is what we’d like to see him pick up a little bit more and he’s getting there.”
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Lyon passed on a redshirt season to become acclimated to the college wrestling season and its demands. Ersland said he thought the challenge of competition would drive Lyon and was best in his and the team’s interest.
“Honestly, he was the best guy in the room at the weight,” Ersland said. “Where we’re at as a program, we thought hey, let’s have all these young guys go. Seven out of our 10 weights are freshmen or sophomores.
“This was the time to really move the program in terms of getting all the good kids, the talent, out on the mat and let them grow and develop together.”
Of course, Lyon didn’t need to be coaxed. He jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. He said the experience has been beneficial in his development.
“They asked me, ‘Do you want to go right away?’ and I’m like I’ll wrestle,” Lyon said. “I mean that’s what I’m here to do, and looking back now I don’t think I’d have it any other way.”
Lyon said he has landed in the perfect spot. Ersland has been a key part of that and coach and wrestler mesh well.
“He is very good at communicating what you need to do, how you need to live your life in order to be a championship guy,” Lyon said. “I feel I like that.”
About 20 of Lyon’s friends and family were in the stands Saturday, including his high school coaches Paul Cleary and Tom Danner.
“I really appreciate them coming,” Lyon said.
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Iowa’s Joey Gunther and Cash Wilcke survived marathon matches to open the Big Ten Championships on Saturday. Both won first-round matches in tiebreaker overtime periods, battling for 11 minutes and earning a point for riding-time advantage.
Seventh-seeded Gunther (174) edged Nebraska’s Beau Breske, 4-3, with 26 seconds more of riding time. Wilcke topped Illinois’ Andre Lee by the same score, using 18 seconds of riding time for the difference.
Unfortunately for Iowa, both fell by decision in the quarterfinals.
SURIANO, NOLF WRESTLE
One of the questions entering the Big Ten Championships was whether Rutgers’ top-seeded Nick Suriano and Penn State NCAA champion Jason Nolf would compete.
Suriano (125) missed time due to illness, leading up to the conference meet. Second-seeded Nolf (157) suffered a knee injury and defaulted from a match against Rutgers, resulting in his lone loss of the season.
Both were in action Saturday. Suriano received an opening bye before a 9-2 decision over Illinois’ Travis Piotrowski in the quarterfinals. Nolf majored Minnesota’s No. 7 seed Jake Short, 15-2, after a first-round pin.
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