There have been ups and downs during this 2021 West Virginia wrestling season, but as the postseason rapidly approaches, third-year head coach Tim Flynn plans to focus on “limiting mistakes” and making the “little improvements” as his young Mountaineers squad prepares for the 2021 Big 12 Championships and ultimately the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships next month.
“I think there was good and bad, you know, we had some good matches, and some not so good,” Flynn said of WVU’s performance at the Cowboy Challenge on Sunday. “Maybe [we] gotta be a little more consistent. But it was nice to get a tournament in as opposed to a dual, just a little something different heading into Big 12s.”
While adjustments will be made between now and the postseason for this crop of inexperienced WVU grapplers, the key is to not “reinvent the wheel,” but rather just focus on fine-tuning smaller facets of their preexisting individual skillsets.
For redshirt junior, Noah Adams, he will likely just make little tweaks, while also relying largely on his years of college wrestling experience, to help prepare him for the postseason.
“Some of it is technique, some of it is focus, it’s a little of everything,” Flynn said of Adams recent losses to Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan. “I don’t think it’s one thing like, he’s got to do X or he needs to [do Y]. There are things during the match to dictate where you are. I think it’s a little [bit] of a lot of [little things] that’ll add up to [getting] that extra point or not giving up that late takedown. But, like I said, I like our chances at the Big 12s.”
For some of Adams’ freshmen teammates, those who don’t have prior postseason successes and experience like Adams does, they will still have to utilize a similar approach to their postseason preparations.
“Well, in the near future, you have to wrestle perfect match [against a guy like Daton Fix or Travis Wittlake], you can’t have any mistakes against a highly ranked [opponent] or a guy that’s a handful, so to speak,” Flynn said. “So, limit your mistakes…I think we can always add a lot of little things to your matches [from week to week]. That’s what I’ve been talking about this week: You get in that much better shape, you just eat that much better, you get rest that much better, you improve a little technique. When you have a lot of little improvements that can add up. And I think that’s what we’re really trying to focus on here in the next week and a half or two weeks.”
Before the postseason, however, WVU will have one final chance to take to the mats in Morgantown to conclude its 2021 regular season, Friday night, Feb. 19, with a marquee match against conference rival No. 13 Iowa State (NWCA Coaches Poll) on Big 12 Now via ESPN+.
Friday night is Senior Night, as well as the annual pink match, sponsored by @WVUCancer! Get to your seats early to help us honor the 2021 Mountaineer seniors and remember to wear pink! 🤼♂️
— WVU Wrestling (@WVUWrestling) February 17, 2021
The Senior Day contest between West Virginia, 7-3, 3-2 Big 12, and No. 13 Iowa State, 9-3, 4-1 Big 12, takes on further significance after Thursday afternoon’s announcement by the NCAA that there will be more at-large berths given to the NCAA Championship this year due to the shortened season, which leaves the Big 12 with 45 automatic qualifiers to the national tournament to be awarded in a few weeks at the conference championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 6-7.
The final dual will actually be like two separate duals. On the main mat, starters for both teams will battle one another. Additionally, there will be a second mat where both teams will have its backups wrestle one another in exhibition-style matches. While the matchup against the Cyclones is not to be overlooked, there is no denying that WVU’s primary focus is on postseason play.
“Our mindset is, whenever you go into the Big 12 Tournament, you want to be a Big 12 champion,” Flynn said. “But then the second goal is to qualify yourself in the NCAA Tournament. I mean, ultimately, when you’re growing up as a kid, you want to be an All-American or an NCAA champion. You can’t do that if you’re not at the tournament, so you know, that’s our focus.
“When you’re wrestling guys, [and] you’re a young guy, you’re a freshman, you’re redshirt freshmen, you’ve got to have a couple things,” Flynn continued. “One, you have to have unbelievable effort, you’ve got to have just an incredible amount of effort, and, and desire. Those two things alone have nothing to do with skill, and nothing to do with strength. But if you have those as a young guy, you can keep yourself in matches. And then, the second thing they need to do is wrestle clean bouts. We can’t make mistakes.”