2007 Big Ten Wrestling Championships Preview
March 3, 2007
Michigan State University is set to host the 2007 edition of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on March 3-4 at the Breslin Center. Touted as one of the most highly competitive conferences in the country, the Big Ten event features ten squads ranked in the top 25 of the latest NWCA Rankings. In addition, six of the nation's best wrestlers are represented within the Big Ten and 61 wrestlers rank among the top 20 in their respective weight class. No. 1 Minnesota, which took home its ninth conference title last year, returned to dominance with the help of four individual title-winners to beat defending champion Illinois 138-125. No. 7 Illinois returns this year to avenge last year's loss along with No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Iowa, No. 11 Penn State, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 18 Indiana, No. 21 Ohio State, No. 22. Michigan State and No. 23 Michigan rounding out the rest of the conference's ranked teams.
With last year's title holder, Michigan State's Nick Simmons moving up in weight this year, new faces litter the 125-pound weight class. The division is made up by seven of the eight seeds held by underclassman, including the No. 1 seed in freshman Jayson Ness. Ness is 33-3 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference. The nation's No. 4 wrestler in the division, Ness has recorded 10 pins, six major decisions and four technical falls for the Gophers. Ness will look to extend his 16 consecutive win streak headed into the weekend. During this streak, Ness has defeated 10 ranked opponents, including six ranked in the top 10.
Ness will be challenged by seven other nationally ranked opponents, including No. 2 seed, Charlie Falck. The young sophomore has maintained a 6-1 dual meet record in racking up a total of 51 dual meet points for the Hawkeyes on his way to earning the second-best ranking in the country. Falck will look to avenge his only Big Ten loss to Ness who won an 8-0 major decision against the Spartan on Feb. 21. Also holding top 10 rankings are Indiana senior Angel Escobedo, Michigan State's Franklin Gomez and Illinois sophomore Gabe Flores who sit at No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 respectively. Escobedo finished the Big Ten season 6-2 while Gomez completed conference competition at 5-3.
The remaining seeds go to Penn State junior Mark McKnight and Purdue's redshirt junior Brandon Tucker. McKnight, is 18-6 overall at No. 7 and Tucker earned the No. 8 seed with a 16-15 season.
Minnesota junior Mack Reiter returns to the Big Ten Championships to avenge last year's lost title. Reiter was title holder two years ago, but Wisconsin senior Tom Clum emerged as champion after a hard-fought battle in last year's title bout that went into extra periods. Coming into the weekend as the No. 3 seed, Reiter will have to fend off Simmons and Illinois freshman Jimmy Kennedy who are the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds respectfully.
After claiming the 125-pound title last year, Simmons moved up in weight and doesn't seem to have slowed as he has recorded a 7-1 conference dual record and a No. 2 ranking in the nation in his new weight class this year.
Ranked eighth in the nation, Kennedy is next in line with the second seed. The freshman is sandwiched between wrestlers who have both experience and success. However, the youngster is holding his own finishing 25-3 overall and close to perfect in the Big Ten dual season, 7-1. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds know each other rather well, with two of Kennedy's three losses coming to Simmons.
Behind him is Indiana sophomore Andrae Hernandez at no. 6, Iowa's Mario Galanakis in the No. 7 seed and Ohio State's T.J. Enright at No 8.
Top-ranked Minnesota leads all Big Ten teams with four top pre-seeds, including Manuel Rivera who owns the top spot in the 141-pound weight class. With an unblemished 34-0 overall record and 7-0 Big Ten dual record Rivera is wearing a large target in a highly competitive division, so competitive in fact that the No. 2 seed, Ryan Lang holds the No. 1 ranking in the nation. The Wildcat missed the first five Big Ten duals due to injury, but returned to post a 3-0 conference record. Lang is a perfect 21-0 and is looking to improve on last year's second-place finish.
Michigan State's Andy Simmons claimed the top prize in the 2006 event after beating out Lang in an 8-2 decision and holds the third-seed headed into the tournament. Simmons returns to battle for the conference crown after completing a 4-1 Big Ten dual season.
Dustin Schlatter's top seed in the 149-pound weight class makes him the second Golden Gopher atop the conference standings. The division is crowded with talent, with all eight seeds earning top-20 national rankings. Schlatter leads the competition with the top seed after another unblemished Big Ten season. With a 29-0 overall record, Schlatter is also regarded as the best wrestler in the country with a No. 1 national ranking. He will face plenty of competition, including Michigan's No. 2 Josh Churella. Churella finished the season 24-3. Before moving up to the 149-pound group, Churella won the 2005 Big ten title to earn All-America status as a 141-pound grappler.
Another Wolverine will look to defend his crown when fourth-ranked Eric Tannenbaum enters as the third seed. Tannenbaum completed the conference season at 7-1, his lone loss coming to Schlatter in a 6-0 decision.
Ohio State freshman No. 16 Lance Palmer makes his first trip to the conference tournament as the third seed followed by Purdue sophomore No. 9 Jake Patacsil. A spot behind Paascil in the national rankings, Wisconsin senior No. 10 Tyler Turner enters the tournament with the fifth seed. He is followed by Penn State's Dan Vallimont, Illinois' sophomore Troy Tirapelle and Indiana's Matt Coughlin, who are ranked 15th, 17th and 19th in the country, respectively.
Defending champion C.P. Schlatter looks to repeat with another title run this weekend. Leading a pack of four top-10 contenders, the Minnesota junior finished the dual season 19-5 overall and 6-2 in conference action. Schlatter claimed last year's title with a hard-fought 5-2 decision from two-time champion Alex Tirapelle of Illinois.
Exacting Tirapelle's revenge will be teammate Michael Poeta who leads the way with a No. 1 ranking in the nation. The Illinois sophomore holds the top seed after maintaining a 5-0 record in the Big Ten dual season. Poeta is last year's bronze medalist in the 165-pound weight class.
Indiana's No. 4 Brandon Becker (25-5, 6-2 Big Ten) took a bronze medal in last year's tournament and holds the second seed while Schlatter (No. 7) and No. 5 Wisconsin's Craig Henning are tied at the No. 3 seed. Iowa's Ryan Morningstar is ranked No. 18 and is tabbed with the fifth seed to round out the nation's top-20 while Penn State's Bubba Jenkins, Purdue's Jacob Murphy and Michigan's Jeff Marsh round out the seeds.
Michigan junior Eric Tannenbaum is tabbed as the No. 2 165-pounder in the nation with a perfect 21-0 campaign. Tannenbaum came in fifth last year in the 149-pound weight class before moving up two divisions this year. The Wolverine is adjusting well in his new weight, dominating the Big Ten scene with an 8-0 conference record and leading team with seven major decisions.
Hawkeye Mark Perry put together a solid junior campaign (20-4, 7-1 Big Ten) to claim the second seed and No. 4 ranking. Perry leads an Iowa team with 68 dual meet team points. Third-seeded Minnesota sophomore Tyler Safratowich also suffered only one loss in Big Ten action and holds top-20 status.
After a fifth place finish a year ago, No. 5 Penn State's James Yonushonis enters with a 27-3 and 8-0 Big Ten dual record to take the No. 1 seed in the 174-pound weight class. Iowa's Eric Luedke may hold a No. 3 ranking in the nation, but follows Yonushonis as the second seed after losing to the Nittany Lion in dual meet action to finish Big Ten's with a 7-1 record.
Northwestern's Jake Herbert represents the lone Wildcat's top seed headed into the weekend. After taking home the 174-pound weight class title in 2006, Herbert will try his luck in the 184-pound weight class. Thwarting Herbert's hopes will be another title holder in second-seeded Roger Kish. Kish won the division last year with a 3-1 decision over Fighting Illini Pete Friedl. No. 3 Ohio State's Mike Pucillo and No. 4 Michigan's Tyrel Todd follow the two juniors and match their own rankings with the third and fourth seeds, respectively.
Also among the talented field is Indiana senior No. 11 Marc Bennet (29-8 overall, 5-3 Big Ten), Michigan State junior No. 10 Joe Williams (25-9 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) and Illinois freshman No. 16 John Dergo (20-8 overall, 3-5 Big Ten). Also challenging for his first title is Wisconsin freshman No. 19 Trevor Brandvold in the eighth seed.
The 197-pound group features the most depth seen in recent history. Penn State junior Phil Davis will look to defend his Big Ten crown after piecing together a 22-1 campaign, including an 8-0 mark against Big Ten competitors. Davis has not lost to a conference opponent since the 2004-05 year, a string of 16 straight dual match victories. Wildcat No. 6 Mike Tamillow (30-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten), Illinois' No. 9 Patrick Bond (12-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) and Ohio State's J.D. Bergman (20-6 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) follow suit and round out the conference's top 10 while Wisconsin's No. 13 Dallas Herbst, Purdue's No. 14 Nathan Moore and Michigan's No. 20 Nick Roy round out the top 20.
No. 1 Cole Konrad (26-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) is the Golden Gophers fourth top-seed of the championships and as he looks to defend his heavyweight title. Second-seed and fifth-year senior Aaron Anspach will be Konrad's biggest competition as the Penn State senior will look for his first title at his first Big Ten championships.
Anspach is 16-2 this season and 7-1 in conference duals with his only loss coming to Konrad on Jan. 21 in a 3-1 decision. Junior Dustin Fox has been equally as dominant against heavyweight competition this season, boasting a 24-3 and 6-1 Big Ten dual record.
Rounding out the ranked grapplers is Iowa junior No. 7 Matt Fields.