March 4, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Top-ranked Minnesota jumped in front of reigning conference champion Illinois in session two competition at the 2006 edition of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Indiana University's Assembly Hall. Heading into Sunday's session three, the top-ranked Gophers sent six wrestlers to the championship finals to propel them ahead of the Illini in the team standings, 116.5-112.
Illinois led after the quarterfinals but with five wrestlers in the championship finals, the Illini may need points from their five consolation-bracket grapplers to beat out Minnesota. The top two lead the field by 23 points. The next closest is dual season champion Michigan with 89 points followed by Iowa with 72.5. Penn State and Northwestern currently share fifth place with 68 points each while Wisconsin (58) leads Michigan State (55) for seventh by a mere three points. Rounding out the standings after day one is Ohio State with 39 and Indiana with 30.5.
Excitement kicked off the night in the 125-pound weight class with both semifinal matches needing extra periods to decide the finalists. Indiana's No. 1 Joe Dubuque and Illinois' Kyle Ott were deadlocked through the first period, but Dubuque struck first with an escape to put him on the board. After a back-and-forth battle, Ott upended the defending national champion Dubuque, 5-4, for a shot at the title. Ott makes the trip for the second straight year after losing to Michigan State's Nick Simmons in the championship bout in 2005.
Northwestern's John Velez led defending conference champion Nick Simmons of Michigan State for most of the match, but Simmons would not let the deficit spoil his hunt for a title repeat. After the match went to extras, Simmons claimed a 6-3 decision to rematch of last year's title bout.
Another reigning champion kept his bid for a second title alive in the 133-pound division. Minnesota's Mack Reiter defeated Michigan's Mark Moos for the second consecutive year in the league tournament with a 4-3 decision for a chance to defend his crown. Wisconsin's Tom Clum will meet him in the championship match after handily defeating Purdue's second-seeded Chris Fleeger, 11-3.
The first top seed - and defending champion - to fall in the semifinals was Michigan's Josh Churella. Northwestern's Ryan Lang gave Churella his second loss of the season, winning a gritty 7-5 decision. Lang took and early 4-0 lead on the defending champion in the first period and never relented to become the lowest seeded athlete (No. 5) to make the finals. Michigan State's Andy Simmons enters the finals for the second year with a 5-2 decision over Iowa's Alex Tsirtsis in the quarterfinals. After finishing last year's championships in the runner-up spot, Simmons has the advantage going into the final, winning the lone match between the pair earlier in the season.
In the 149-pound bracket, Minnesota Dustin Schlatter provided another thrilling finish. He was deadlocked at 1-all with Ohio State's J. Jaggers with 14 seconds left in the third period before blowing the lead open to claim a 4-1 decision in the final seconds. In the other semifinal, Illinois Troy Tirapelle became the only unseeded grappler to reach the finals, doing so with a 4-1 decision over Iowa's second-seeded Ty Eustic.
Illinois' Alex Tirapelle made it two in the family with title opportunities, defeating Iowa's Joe Johnston, 4-2, to join his brother Troy in the finals. Alex Tirapelle will have a chance for a third 157-pound crown when he faces Minnesota's CP Schlatter, another product of a two-Big Ten wrestler household. CP Schlatter matched his brother Dustin for a championship run with a tight 1-0 decision over Wisconsin's Craig Henning to reach the finals.
Michigan's Ryan Churella did was his brother Josh could not in making it to the finals for a second consecutive year. Churella put himself in position to defend his title with a 2-0 decision over Iowa's Eric Luedke in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, Minnesota's No. 3 Matt Nagel downed Illinois' second-seeded Mike Poeta for a shot at the finals in his final Big Ten Championship. The lone senior on the Gopher squad, Nagel is one of six Minnesota grapplers entering the championships.
Northwestern's Jake Herbert won in a major decision, 10-0, over Pen State's James Yonushonis for a spot in the championship final. Iowa's Mark Perry put the exclamation point on his final-bout entry, pinning Illinois' sixth-seeded Donny Reynolds at 1:14.
Illinois' Pete Friedl proved his move from 174-pounds to the 184-pound class did not dampen his championship expectations. The 2005 title-winner in the 174-pound bracket, Friedl moved up 10 pounds and overcame the resident crown-holder in his new division for a second straight year in the finals. Friedl took out the 2005 champion in a tenacious 2-1 decision. Minnesota's Roger Kish beat the seeding odds, as well, defeating second-seeded Purdue's Ben Wissel, 9-5. Wissel claimed a 4-3 win in the pair's fifth-place match at last year's tournament, but this year Kish was the victor and moves on to the finals to face Friedl.
In the 197-pound bracket Illinois' Tyrone Byrde topped Purdue's Nathan Moore for the second consecutive year in the championships, but this time Byrde earned a trip to the final bout. Byrde edged Moore, 4-3, for fifth place in 2005. With a 3-1 decision in this year's quarterfinals, Byrde will face Penn State's Philip Davis in the championship match. The second-seeded Davis punched his ticket with a narrow 2-1 decision over Northwestern's Matt Delguyd.
Leading the way in the heavy weight competition, Minnesota's Cole Konrad counted his second pin of the day at 2:45 against Penn State's Joel Edwards. With an unblemished 32-win season already to his credit, Konrad will try to defend his tournament crown against Michigan's No. 2 Greg Wagner. In his semifinal, Wagner held a 2-0 lead over Ohio State's Kirk Nail before Nail suffered an injury falling off the mat into the scorers table. Wagner advanced to the finals with a win by default.
The final day of competition begins Sunday at noon with the continuation of the consolation brackets. The finals in all 10 weight classes will follow with the Big Ten Conference team title still up for grabs.