Wrestling struggles in Big Ten Championships, sends one to NCAA's
The wrestling team was, for the most part, manhandled as teammates slumped to a last-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
The Spartans, who hosted the event inside Breslin Center, had only one NCAA qualifier, freshman Rayvon Foley, who finished seventh in the 125-pound weight class.
The Spartans finished the two-day tournament with 9.5 points, and the Ohio State Buckeyes became Big Ten champions for the second year, posting a score of 164.5. Despite the struggles, head coach Roger Chandler tried his best to be upbeat following the tournament.
“Our guys competed the whole time. They never quit out there," Chandler said. "There’s a difference between that and sometimes being outclassed, and in a few situations we (were wrestling against) returning NCAA champions."
Redshirt freshman Jake Tucker faced defending NCAA champion and Nittany Lion Jason Nolf in the 157-pound weight class in the first round. Though he lost, he took some positives out of the match.
“I knew he was coming off an injury, so I figured maybe he doesn’t have as good of conditioning as he once did,” Tucker said. “I went out there and threw some stuff at him. He got on top, I reversed him. At the end of the day, he’s the best in the country for a reason. He pinned me, but my preparation could have been a little better. I bounced back, though.”
Tucker then faced Illinois’ Kyle Langenderfer in the consolation round and won, although he later lost to Langenderfer during Sunday’s portion of the competition in a 5-4 decision. Tucker said he grew up watching Langenderfer since the Fighting Illini wrestler grew up in Illinois, the same state Tucker went to high school in.
“It was cool to go out there. I took it to him in the first match, and that was fun," Tucker said. "I got to wrestle him again (Sunday morning). It didn’t go the way it did (Saturday), but it’s all about bouncing back. People always say to fail forward, so I lost, but I’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Perhaps the least satisfied of the Spartan wrestlers was technically the most successful. Foley won his first match against Indiana’s Elijah Oliver, but then ran into Iowa’s second-seeded freshman Spencer Lee, who eventually took third in the competition, and was pinned.
“Lee is a very dynamic wrestler. There’s a lot of things that he does well, that I’m just not used to, and I've just gotta adjust,” Foley said after the match. “He’s been beating me to the punch. Last time we wrestled, he did the same thing. So, I've really got to adjust mentally and technically when it comes to wrestling him. He’s a very good wrestler. I know I’m very good, I just have things that I need to work on to actually beat him.”
Chandler marveled after the tournament about how difficult it is, seemingly every year.
“This conference is so relentless in many ways,” he said. “Any time you step on the mat, you’ve got to be ready to compete like you’re competing to be an All-American. In many ways, this tournament is tougher than the NCAA Tournament because the talent level is so condensed.”
While the results were less than ideal, Chandler was effusive in his praise for the tournament organization, and expressed his pride in hosting it for the first time as head coach.
“It’s been great for us to feature the sport of wrestling to the state of Michigan. I think this conference and these championships are the best in the country,” Chandler said. “That’s why we get the fan support we do, it doesn’t matter where this is. Our Michigan State event management and administration did a great job featuring Michigan State to the country.”
The Spartans will be represented in the NCAA Tournament by Foley March 15-17 in Cleveland.
List of Big Ten champions:
125-lb: Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) d. Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)
133-lb: Stevan Micic (U-M) d. Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)
141-lb: Joey McKenna (Ohio State) d. Michael Carr (Illinois)
149-lb: Zain Retherford (Penn State) d. Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)
157-lb: Alec Pantaleo (U-M) d. Micah Jordan (Ohio State)
165-lb: Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) d. Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
174-lb: Mark Hall (Penn State) d. Myles Amine (U-M)
184-lb: Bo Nickal (Penn State) d. Myles Martin (Ohio State)
197-lb: Kollin Moore (Ohio State) d. Shakur Rasheed (Penn State)
285-lb: Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) d. Adam Coon (U-M)