Illinois leading Big Ten Wrestling Championships with Session Two underway

March 4, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Reigning champion Illinois leads the way after session one of the 2006 Big Ten Wrestling Tournament at Indiana's Assembly Hall. With wrestlers through opening and quarterfinal rounds of competition, the Illini carry a 62-57.5 lead over second-place Minnesota heading into tonight's semifinal action.

Iowa sits in third with 51 points followed by Penn State in fourth with 46 points. Dual season league champion Michigan is tied with Northwestern for fifth with 39 points each while Purdue (27) holds a slim margin over Ohio State (26) for seventh. Michigan State and Wisconsin share ninth place with 22 points a piece, and Indiana rounds out the team standings with 15.

The Illini entered the conference tournament with two top seeds, and advanced seven grapplers to the championship semifinals and three to the wrestle-back consolation bracket. Minnesota advanced six grapplers, including its three top seeds, to the semis while four Gophers enter the consolation ranks.

In the 125-pound bracket a veteran crew of the four of the top seeds advanced easily, with Indiana's Joe Dubuque leading the way. Dubuque, the defending national champion, will face fourth-seeded Kyle Ott from Illinois. In the other match-up, Michigan State's second-seeded Nick Simmons looks to defend his title against Northwetsern's John Velez. All four grapplers placed within the top six in last year's tournament.

The 133-pound semifinal round also features the top four seeds. In a rematch of last year's semifinal, No. 1 Mack Rieter from Minnesota will take on Michigan's Mark Moos. Reiter won an 8-2 decision against Moos on his way to winning the conference crown while Moos finished fourth. The victor will face the winner of the other semifinal bout between Wisconsin's Tom Clum and Purdue's second-seeded Chris Fleeger.

Another reigning champion highlights the 141-pound division. For the second straight year, Michgian's Josh Churella wielded a 3-0 shutout decision over Wiscosnins' Ed Gutnik in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals. He faces Ryan Lang of Northwestern, last year's fourth-place finisher. Michigan State's Andy Simmons, the 2005 runner-up, looks to get back into the final bout when he faces Iowa's Alex Tsirtsis in the other semifinal.

The second of Minnesota's three No. 1 seeds heads the 149-pound semifinal matchups. Dustin Schlatter used a 17-3 major decision over Michigan State's Darren McKnight to reach the semis in his first Big Ten Championships. He will face Ohio State's J. Jaggers, who won a hard-fought match against fifth-seed Doug Withstandley in the quarterfinals. In the other contest, Iowa's No. 2 Ty Eustice faces he first unseeded grappler to enter the semifinals. Illinois' Troy Tirpelle pulled off the upset of defending champion and No. 3 seed Eric Tannenbaum from Michigan with  a 6-4 decision in the first round. A redshirt freshman, Tirpelle advanced to the semis in his first conference tournament with a 6-5 decision over Wisconsin's No. 6 Tyler Turner.

Tirapelle's older brother, Alex, is the top contender in the the semifinals of the 157-pound event. Looking for his third straight title, Alex Tirapelle takes on Iowa's Joe Johnston for the second straight year in the semis. In last year's meeting, Tirapelle advanced to the final with a 9-5 decision. The other semifinal pits No. 2 against No. 3 with Wisconsin's Craig Henning taking on Minnesota's CP Schlatter.

Marking another brother-combination in the semifinals, Michigan's Ryan Churella joined his brother Josh with a major-decision win in his 165-pound quarterfinal. Also a defending champion, Churella takes on Iowa's Eric Ludke for a spot in the finals. Also vying for a chance to compete in the championship final is Illinois' Mike Poeta and Northwestern's Will Durkee.

In the 174-pound track, Northwestern's Jake Herbert fought off a gritty effort from Minnesota's Gabriel Dretsch with a 5-3 decision to claim a spot in the semis. He will face fourth-seeded James Yonushonis from Penn State. Illinois sixth-seeded Donny Reynolds squeaked out an upset against third-seeded RJ Boudro of Michigan State in the quarterfinals for a semifinal collision with second-seeded Mark Perry from Iowa.

At 184-pounds, Penn State's Eric Bradley will have a chance to repeat on his title with a semifinal matchup against Illinois' Pete Friedl, the 2005 champion in the 174-pound weight class. On the other side of the bracket, Purdue's No. 2 Ben Wissel will go up against Minnesota's Roger Kish. The pair met in last year's consolation final with Wissel claiming fifth place on a 4-3 decision.

Another Illini grappler leads the way in the 197-pound division. Tyrone Byrd looks to put points on the board for Illinois when he faces Purdue's Nathan Moore in the semis. The winner will move to the finals and face either Penn State's Philip Davis or Northwestern's Matt Delguyd who meet in the other semifinal bout.

At heavyweight, Cole Konrad has a repeat on his mind. The defending champion from Minnesota advanced quickly to the semifinals, pinning Illinois' Matt Weight only 56 seconds to advance to the semifinal round. He faces Penn State's No. 4 Joel Edwards. After a third-place finish a year ago, Michigan's Greg Wagner looks for a finals berth when he faces Ohio State's Kirk Nail.