By ANDY WOLF
Everybody is 0-0 in the eyes of Devin Rogers.
“Everything leading up to this point was how you’re seeding but after seeding you’re going to have to wrestle everyone no matter what,” the University of Findlay senior 149-pounder said of preparing for the Division II national wrestling championship.
The tournament begins at 11 a.m. Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and will run through Saturday.
Rogers is making his second national tournament appearance and first since 2017.
He’ll be joined by teammates and first-time qualifiers in junior Zachary Collins (125) and redshirt freshman Branson Proudlock.
“Going into this, it’s not anything different than what I’m trying to do any other time,” Rogers said. “Anyone can lose at any time. I’m going to have to wrestle one of the better people anyways because I know I’m planning on winning my matches. It doesn’t really matter who I have, what I’m seeded.”
It takes four wins from the main draw to capture a national championship.
Rogers, at 18-10 overall, isn’t seeded. He’ll wrestle the No. 8 seed Dominic Means (20-9) of Gannon.
Rogers first qualified for nationals as a sophomore in 2017 at 133 pounds. He won his opening match but lost his next two and was eliminated.
He took a redshirt the following year, trying to hit the weights and bump up a few classes.
Rogers didn’t get a chance at regionals last season after losing two of three wrestle-offs with teammate and fellow 149-pounder Josh Wimer — who eventually finished eighth at nationals.
Now that this season has been his turn, Rogers pushed away all of the pressure of getting back to nationals.
“For this being my last year, I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought about that,” he said. “I’m just trying to move past that and just focus again on myself and trying to wrestle the best I can here.”
Meanwhile, Collins is 18-17 and will wrestle the opening rattail against Mason Turner (16-6) of Fort Hays State. The winner will face King’s Rylee Billings (24-9) in the main draw.
Collins was 9-14 through the end of December and won seven straight matches, including a 4-0 mark at the Great Midwest Athletic Conference duals, to come on strong late.
“The beginning of this year I really struggled a lot and then something just clicked like halfway through the year,” Collins said.
At the regional tournament, he lost to Ashland’s Christian Wellman 2-1 in a tiebreaker in his opening match.
Two matches later with a national spot on the line, Collins met Wellman again in the third-place bout. Collins, who had beat Wellman 5-4 in a dual on Feb. 1, won yet another close bout at 5-3 to punch his ticket.
“In the first match at regionals I kept getting to his legs and I couldn’t finish,” Collins said. “In the third (-place match), I finished a couple shots and I was just rolling after that.”
Collins was thrust into the starting lineup at 125 as a true freshman and it took its toll.
As a lighter 125, he went 9-22 as a freshman and 13-18 as a sophomore.
He’ll hope to keep his hot streak going at the national tournament.
“I’ve got to go in there and think I can wrestle to win it all,” he said. “Most guys that are going to (be) All-American think they can win it and that’s what I think.”
Proudlock is 23-7 overall and the No. 8 seed. He’ll wrestle John Berger (8-1) of Limestone.
Getting to the national tournament was something he expected of himself.
“Coming into this year, I wasn’t exactly sure how I matched up with other guys in the nation,” he said.
Proudlock got through to nationals by taking runner-up at the regional tournament.
He hasn’t let a slew of recent injuries slow him down.
Proudlock tore his labrum in his hip in the offseason, preventing him from doing any preseason work.
After reaching 100 percent into the season, he injured his knee, having to take two weeks off.
Upon returning, Proudlock sprained his ankle — something he’s still trying to wrestle through.
With being hurt most of the time, he’s had to swap his practice time by staying active on the stationary bike or by swimming.
One thing Rogers, Collins and Proudlock have in common is all trying to wrestle their match.
Rogers wants to control the pace by letting his defense be his offense, dictating the tempo by setting up his moves. Collins feels he won’t get scored on if he can get to his shot and the other guy’s legs.
Proudlock just wants to keep scoring.
“I’m not happy with a 2-1 match or a 1-0 match,” he said.
All three also share the same sentiment of treating it like any other tournament.
“You’ve always got to think of these matches as the same way you always do, warm up the same way and go out there and think that you’re going to win,” Rogers said.
“If it’s been working all season, you’re not going to change anything.”