Ohio State defeats Illinois for 2006 Big Ten Men's Championship
April 30, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS - In the teams' third straight meeting in the Big Ten Championship title match, the top-seeded Ohio State forced a new outcome against defending champion Illinois and claimed the 2006 conference crown with a thrilling 4-2 victory over the second-seeded Illini at the Baseline Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota. With the win, the No. 10 Buckeyes secured their first Big Ten Championship title since 2001 and snapped Illinois' four-year title streak.
Sixth-ranked Illinois looked poised for its 10th title in the past 11 years after capturing the doubles point, marking the first time in all 26 dual matches this season that the Buckeyes lost the doubles advantage. The fourth-ranked team in the country, Illinois' Ryan Rowe and Kevin Anderson also achieved a rare feat with their 8-4 win over OSU's No. 1 pair of Scott Green and Ross Wilson. The defeat marked only the second loss this year for Green and Wilson, the nation's top tandem. With three days of heavy rain forcing the tournament indoors, Green and Wilson, back-to-back winners of the ITA National Indoor Championship, looked poised to continue their success. Rowe and Anderson proved too strong, overpowering Green and Wilson for their 16th win of the season. Illinois' No. 3 doubles team of Ruben Gonzales and G.D. Jones clinched the point with an 8-4 decision over Chris Klingemann and Devin Mullings.
Ohio State bounced back quickly behind No. 40 Bryan Koniecko's stunning upset victory over No. 9 Ryler DeHeart. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year held his own against the two-time conference Athlete of the Year, taking the first set in a gritty 7-4 tiebreaker. Surging with confidence, Koniecko rolled through the second set, sealing the Buckeyes' first team point wiht a 7-6 (4), 6-1 win.
Dennis Mertens gave OSU its first lead, 2-0, rolling to a 6-3, 6-0 decision over Marc Spicijaric, but Illinois quickly leveled the match again. After another first-set tiebreaker in the No. 2 singles match, No. 23 Anderson shut down Klingemann 7-6 (4), 6-0 to even the team score at 2-all.
The No. 4 singles match saw third straight first-set tiebreaker, with OSU's 103rd-ranked Steven Moneke edging Ryan Rowe, the nation's 71st-best player, 7-6 (4). Serving at love-40, 5-all in the second set, Moneke bounced back to claim the game after two deuces and went on to break Rowe's serve for a 7-5 decision. Ohio State took a 3-2 lead, needing only one win to clinch its first championship crown since 2001.
With No. 3 singles player Devin Mullings down a set and on the ropes against 87th-ranked Jones, the Buckeyes turned their title hopes to senior leader Wilson. After notching the first set against Illinois' Gonzales (6-4), Wilson fell 6-3 in the second and found himself down 5-3. Wilson held serve to bring himself within one and then broke Gonzales' service game to level the match at 5-all. Now down 6-5, Gonzales tossed a double fault and dumped a volley in the net to set up double match point for Ohio State. Watching Gonzales' next forehand approach shot sail long, Wilson clinched the championship title with the 6-5, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
First-time winners of the regular season title after an undefeated Big Ten performance, the Buckeyes' scored a postseason trophy to match and improved to 25-1 overall.
Ohio State (1) def. Illinois (2), 4-2