Big Ten Winter Season in Review: Part 3
June 12, 2008
by Jeff Smith
In our final of three installments looking back at the Big Ten's Winter Season, BigTen.org today focuses on the NCAA Championship and All-America success each sport had last winter. Of the nine Big Ten winter sports, the conference recorded one team and 17 individual national championships, a runner-up team finish, a trio top-three results, a pair of top-fives, six top-10s and a championship and a runner-up outcome in NIT basketball action.
Of the conference's 14 finalists, seven standouts took home individual national titles in the 10 weight classes and at least one league representative wrestled in the final of each class. Individual champions included Indiana's Angel Escobedo (125 lbs.), Iowa's Brent Metcalf (149) and Mark Perry (165), Ohio State's J Jaggers (141) and Mike Pucillo (184), Northwestern's Dustin Fox (285) and Penn State's Phil Davis (197). Along with these seven, Illinois' Mike Poeta (157), Iowa's Joey Slaton (133), Michigan's Steve Luke (174) and Eric Tannenbaum (165), Minnesota's Jayson Ness (125), Ohio State's J.D. Bergman (285) and Penn State's Bubba Jenkins (149) all placed second in their respective weight classes.
Of the 72 Big Ten competitors in the Championships, 32 earned All-America honors, accounting for 44 percent of Big Ten participants and totaling one more than a year ago.
Individually, the Big Ten crowned two national champions and five runners-up. Penn State's Casey Sandy, the Big Ten Athlete of the Year, captured the all-around title with a score of 91.350, while Illinois freshman Paul Ruggeri took home the high bar title after scoring a 15.000. Sandy became Penn State's NCAA-record 15th all-around champion, its first since Luis Vargas in 2005, and the first ever Nittany Lion to win both the Big Ten and NCAA all-around crowns in the same year. Ruggeri became the Illini's first national champion since 2006.
A total of 24 All-America distinctions were given to Big Ten standouts finishing in the top eight in each event. Those accolades were awarded to Illinois' Ruggeri (1st-high bar, 5th-vault, T-5th-floor), Wes Haagensen (3rd-parallel bars), Tyler Yamauchi (4th-vault), Ross Bradley (5th-high bar), Daniel Ribeiro (6th-pommel horse), Jon Drollinger (7th-rings) and Brian Liscovitz (7th-parallel bars); Michigan's David Chan (5th-pommel horse), Phillip Goldberg (5th-rings) and Thomas Kelley (T-6th-high bar); Minnesota's Cole Storer (2nd-high bar) and Mitchell Mays (8th-vault); Ohio State's Jimmy Wickham (T-2nd-floor, 3rd-vault) and Jake Bateman (6th-all around); and Penn State's Sandy (1st-all around, 2nd-pommel horse, 2nd-parallel bars, T-2nd-floor, 6th-vault, 8th-rings) and Tommy Ramos (3rd-rings).
WOMEN'S INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
Michigan senior Tiffany Ofili was the conference's lone individual national champion as she earned the 60-meter hurdle title. Second-place finishers included Michigan's Nicole Edwards (mile), Bettie Wade (pentathlon) and the DMR squad and Minnesota's Heather Dorniden (800 meters), while Purdue's Astin Steward (weight throw) took home the bronze. Fourth-place finishers included Michigan's Geena Gall (800 meters), Michigan State's Nicole Bush (5,000 meters), Minnesota's Alicia Rue (pole vault) and Penn State's Shana Cox (400 meters).
Among those honorees were Michigan freshman Kylee Botterman (8th) and junior Becky Bernard (12th), who were named first-team All-America selections on the uneven bars. Penn State sophomore Brandi Personett (5th) was also named a first-team All-American on the balance beam, while Illinois freshman Allison Buckley became school's first All-American by tying for sixth place on the balance beam during a preliminary afternoon session. Ohio State senior Kaylan Clevinger was named a second-team All-American on bars, marking the school's first All-American since Lindsey Vagedes in 1999. Other notable Big Ten gymnasts competing in the all-around at nationals were Michigan State sophomore Rochelle Robinson and Minnesota junior Carmelina Carabajal.
MEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING
Michigan's 271.5 points earned the team a sixth-place finish, followed by Indiana in 10th with 166 points. Not far behind the Hoosiers were Minnesota (137.5) and Northwestern (85) in 11th and 12, respectively, while Ohio State (63) finished 16th. Penn State (33) placed 23rd, followed by Purdue (25) in 25th and Wisconsin (4) in 39th.
Individual winners included Indiana's Ben Hesen, Michigan's Scott Spann and Alex Vanderkaay, Ohio State's Sean Moore and Penn State's Patrick Schirk. After taking runner-up honors at the 2007 NCAA meet, Hesen garnered the top podium spot for 2008 in the 100 backstroke in a time of 44.72. Spann claimed top honors in the 100-yard breaststroke, timing in at 52.71, and also clocked at 1:54.16 in the 200 breaststroke to take second. Vanderkaay was the Wolverines' other event champion as he picked up gold in the 400 individual medley, touching the wall in 3:41.58. Michigan scored four times in the race, placing first, eighth, ninth and 16th. Vanderkaay also took home fourth-place honors in the 200 individual medley, posting a 1:44.57.
The Buckeyes' Moore set a new NCAA meet record in the platform competition, scoring 478.20, while Penn State's Schirk touched the wall first in 1:40.22 in the 200 backstroke.
Big Ten athletes scored points in all 21 events at the NCAA Championships and had three or more finishers in 15 of those contests, including all five relay races.
WOMEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING
Indiana (128) finished 10th, followed by Minnesota (13th with 96), Ohio State (15th with 85) and Northwestern (19th with 81) among the top 20. Other conference schools scoring points were Wisconsin (22nd with 44), Penn State (29th with 26) and Purdue (34th with 16).
Big Ten teams scored 19 times in relay events with four teams each scoring in the 200 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay, 800 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. Wisconsin garnered the conference's top relay spot with a fourth-place finish 200 freestyle relay.
The Big Ten boasted two individual national champions in Michigan's Emily Brunemann and Ohio State's Chelsea Davis. Brunemann swam her way to a gold medal in the 1,650-yard freestyle in a time of 15:53.69 and also gained points in the 500 freestyle and the 400 individual medley as she placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Davis took home top honors off the three-meter board, scoring 365.85, and dove her way to an eighth-place finish from the one-meter height as well.
Three Big Ten student-athletes notched second-place performances, including two swimmers. Minnesota's Jillian Tyler broke the minute mark in the 100-yard breaststroke clocking a 59.87 for runner-up honors and Indiana's Kateryna Zubkova stood second on podium after she bettered her Big Ten Championships time by almost a half second posting a 1:53.17 in the 200 backstroke. Zubkova would also finish third in the 100 backstroke garnering major points for the Hoosiers. Ohio State's Bianca Alvarez finished just behind Davis on the three-meter board to earn second place with a score of 354.50.
Overall, Big Ten student-athletes posted 24 top-eight finishes, six of which came from Indiana.
While Michigan State and Wisconsin both advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, it was Ohio State that stole the headlines in the postseason with its run toward the NIT Championship. The Buckeyes defeated Massachusetts, 92-85, in the title game to become the Big Ten's seventh NIT champion. After defeating Dayton in the quarterfinals, the Buckeyes earned their fourth berth in the NIT round of four in school history and first since 1988. Ohio State opened with UNC-Asheville in the first-round and continued to post double-digit victories against California, Dayton and Mississippi. The Big Ten returned to the NIT semifinals for the first time since the 2006 season when Michigan finished as the runner-up.
Michigan State and Wisconsin advanced to the third round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, making them two of 12 programs that have advanced to the Sweet 16 in at least three of the last six years. The Spartans topped Temple, 72-61, and Pitt, 65-54, before falling 92-74 to national runner-up Memphis. The Badgers fell 73-56 to Davidson after besting Cal State Fullerton in the first round, 71-56, and Kansas State, 72-55, in the second. Purdue also advanced to the second round after a 90-79 opening win over Baylor. The Boilermakers concluded their season with an 85-78 loss to Xavier. Indiana fell 86-72 to Arkansas in the first round of the tournament.
The Hoosiers' dynamic inside-outside duo of D.J. White and Eric Gordon not only finished as the Big Ten leading scorers, but were named consensus All-Americans as well. On the sidelines, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan was named the 2008 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year. Ryan's Badgers boasted the nation's best defense in 2007-08 at 54.4 points per game and were one of only five schools in the country to win at least 30 games in each of the last two seasons.
Just as Wisconsin did in 2007, Michigan State advanced to the Postseason WNIT Championship after wins over Bowling Green (74-66), Kansas (58-54), Michigan (45-40) and N.C. State (58-57). The Spartans had home-court advantage for the championship final but were unable to hold off Marquette in the final and fell 81-66. In addition to MSU, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin participated in the 2008 Postseason WNIT.
Making it to the "Big Dance" was Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue. The Hawkeyes (Georgia, 67-61), Golden Gophers (Texas, 72-55) and Buckeyes (Florida State, 60-49) all fell in the first round, while the Boilermakers ousted Utah 66-59 in West Lafayette. That win set up a second-round contest with eventual 2008 NCAA Champion Tennessee, a game Purdue lost 78-52.
On the All-America front, Illinois' Jenna Smith, Ohio State' Jantel Lavender and Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson were named honorable mention selections by the Associated Press, while Anderson and Lavender were named honorable mention selections to the WBCA State Farm Coaches' All-America team. In addition, the Badgers' Anderson was named the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner, which honors a female collegiate basketball player, 5-8 or under, who excels athletically and academically. The national award was the first in school history.
MEN'S INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
Following Wisconsin was Michigan and Purdue tying for 44th with five points each. Wolverine sprinter Adam Harris provided excitement on the straightaway with a fourth-place showing in the 60-meter dash, claiming all of UM's points. Purdue's Jon Pullum was the sole point-getter for the Boilermakers as he finished fourth in the weight throw with a heave of 72-03.00 (22.02m).
Rounding out the Big Ten student-athletes' who earned team points was Iowa's John Hickey and Ohio State's Jeff See. Hickey catapulted the shot put 60-08.50 (18.50m) as the junior stood seventh on the podium. See competed against a talented field of milers clocking 4:05.75 and also finished in seventh place.