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By Mike Finn & Bryan Van Kley
Andrew Howe, Wisconsin’s defending national champion at 165 pounds, will most likely miss this year’s national tournament after suffering a knee injury in his Jan. 16 dual with Illinois’ Conrad Polz.
“There is a strong possibility that he’s done for the year, but he is Andrew Howe,” said Wisconsin assistant coach Donny Pritzlaff. “He may be feeling better in six weeks or so.”
Pritzlaff said the injury occurred early in the Howe-Polz meeting in Madison, Wisc.
“In the first 30 seconds of the match, there was an over-under situation, chest to chest,” Pritzlaff recalled. “Polz had a left underhook, went to throw the hook by for a single. As Andrew threw that foot back, he heard a pop right underneath him.”
Howe, a true junior from Cedar Lake, Ind., has appeared in the NCAA finals in each of the last two national tournaments; losing in 2009 to Edinboro’s Jarrod King in St. Louis, and beating Penn State’s Dan Vallimont in last March’s NCAA championships in Omaha, Neb.
This year, Howe is 18-2 with his only other loss coming against Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs — a 2009 champion at 157 pounds who was forced to miss last year because of a knee injury — in the Midlands in Evanston, Ill., in late December. Howe then won all four bouts at the NWCA National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jan. 8-9, before suffering the injury default against Polz.
Pritzlaff also called it a “weird” injury
“Our doctors and radiologists in our athletic training department are continuing to look at it daily,” the Badger assistant said. “Originally the MRI came back that there was some of the hamstring attached. The next night the doctor called our trainer and thought that the hamstring had completely detached.
“Since then, Andrew has looked good doing the elliptical and stairstepper. (The medical personnel) did a 3D ultrasound (Jan. 24), and we’re still waiting on those results. Even if we do the non-surgery result, we’re not pushing him to get back this year.”
Pritzlaff also called it a “roller coaster” situation for Howe, who also won last year’s U.S. Open in freestyle and finished second at the World Team Trials at 163 pounds.
“There’s a lot of questions in his mind right now, but he’s staying focused and leading the team like he always has,” Pritzlaff said. “We need to come up with some answers to these questions in the next couple weeks so he can focus on what he needs to do, whether that’s the U.S. Open (April 7 in Cleveland, Ohio) or just the Trials. (June 9 in Oklahoma City, Okla.).
Pritzlaff said the injury first had a big impact on the team, but the Badgers responded with a 22-15 win over Nebraska, Jan. 21, in Madison.
“It was huge,” said Pritzlaff, a former NCAA champion from Wisconsin. “The office was like a morgue in here. But we had to continue, we have some awesome guys (in the room). The rest of the guys really responded. There’s no way we should have handled Nebraska like we did. Individually, these guys know what they want to do.”
Last year, the Badgers finished fourth in the NCAA team race and had hopes of being in the title hunt in March in Philadelphia. But Barry Davis’ squad were relying heavily on the points of the returning two-time NCAA finalist.