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|Schlatters, Kish, Konrad power Gophers to Big Ten title|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Minnesota sophomore 157-pounder C.P. Schlatter has developed a sure-fire method for gaining that little extra boost before he steps on the mat.
Watch his younger brother compete.
Gophers true freshman and top-ranked Dustin Schlatter continued his amazing and improbable season by earning a convincing 14-0 rout over unseeded Troy Tirapelle of Illinois in the 149-pound Big Ten finals Sunday afternoon at Indiana University's Assembly Hall.
Third-ranked C.P. Schlatter then followed suit by knocking off top-ranked and defending Big Ten champ Alex Tirapelle of Illinois 5-2 in the championship round.
"My brother's match really pumped me up and got me going," C.P. Schlatter said. "What Dustin's done as a true freshman is pretty unbelievable. He keeps having success and I've really been able to feed off that. I think our whole team has."
Minnesota's Roger Kish (184) then clinched the team title for the Gophers with his 3-1 win over Illinois' Pete Friedl in the final round. Those three head-to-head wins over the defending Big Ten champion Fighting Illini boosted the top-ranked Gophers to the team title.
Minnesota won its fifth league title in the past eight years and captured its ninth Big Ten title overall. The Gophers put the exclamation point on the day when top-ranked heavyweight Cole Konrad won his second league title with a 6-1 overtime win over Michigan's Greg Wagner in the finals. Konrad was named Big Ten wrestler of the year.
"I wasn't sure going into my match if a win would clinch this or not," Kish said. "I was just trying to do my best and help this team win a conference title. It's pretty sweet to know that my match wrapped this up. It was a great performance by the guys on this team. We wrestled tough."
Minnesota finished with 138 points and eight national qualifiers. The Gophers went 4-2 in the finals. Ninth-ranked Illinois had 125 points and qualified all 10 wrestlers for nationals. The Fighting Illini went 0-5 in the finals.
Minnesota's J Robinson was named league coach of the year.
"We obviously knew those head-to-head matches with Illinois would be huge," Robinson said. "Our guys really came through and did a good job performing under pressure."
Second-ranked Michigan was third with 115 points and nine national qualifiers.
The top seven finishers in each weight class plus two wild cards overall qualified for the NCAA meet March 16-18 in Oklahoma City.
Dustin Schlatter had just come off winning a state title around this time last year, but he's fit right in on a loaded Gophers team hoping to dethrone three-time defending national champion Oklahoma State. He was named Big Ten freshman of the year.
"My teammates and my brother have made it so easy to fit in on this team," Schlatter said. "Plus we have great coaches who have trained us really hard to get ready for this point in the season. I made the transition to college pretty quickly and just tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I wrestle aggressively and try to have fun."
Konrad was locked in a 1-1 tie late in overtime before he threw Wagner to his back in the closing seconds for a five-point move. Wagner was fourth in the nation last year and Konrad second.
"A lot of guys try to slow the match down against me and I'm pretty used to it," Konrad said. "I'm more experienced now and I just have to keep my composure. I'm really excited about nationals. I'm confident, but I know I'm going to have some tough matches and I need to stay focused."
The No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes struggled to a sixth-place finish with 86 points, their lowest finish in the conference meet since 1967. Iowa has won a league-best 31 Big Ten titles. The Hawkeyes had just one finalist, but did qualify eight wrestlers for nationals.
The best, and wildest, finals bout may have come in a battle of former Big Ten champs at 133 with Wisconsin's third-seeded Tom Clum outlasting Minnesota's top-seeded Mack Reiter 6-4 in a bout that wasn't decided until the third round of overtime.
Neither wrestler scored through the two rounds of sudden victory and tiebreaker periods before Clum spun behind Reiter after a scramble to score the match-ending takedown with 16 seconds left in the third go-around on their feet in a one minute period. The wrestlers were on the mat for 11 minutes and 44 seconds of actual wrestling.
Clum was named outstanding wrestler of the meet.
"We were both so tired at the end, and neither one of us had much left," said an out-of-breath Clum, as sweat poured off his body and blood trickled out of his left nostril. "It was an unbelievable match. I just need to keep it in perspective. I won Big Tens two years ago, but turned around and didn't place at nationals. I need to make sure I'm ready at nationals this time."
Michigan State junior Nick Simmons may have secured the top seed for nationals after winning the loaded 125 class that include the returning NCAA champ, runner-up and fourth-place finisher.
Simmons, who was fourth in the nation last year, scored on an ankle pick in the first minute, tilted Illinois' Kyle Ott for a three-point near fall in the second period and rolled up over four minutes of riding time in a 7-0 finals win. Ott beat Simmons in overtime last year in the NCAA semifinals before Ott placed second to Indiana's Joe Dubuque at nationals.
Simmons beat Ott in the league finals for the second straight year.
"This gives me a real huge boost going into nationals," Simmons said. "Every time I wrestle (Ott) I think about that loss from last year, but you can't get too wrapped up in worrying about it. I just go out and stick to my game plan.
"The Big Tens are so tough, and this is a good sign for me. Hopefully, this gives me a little momentum heading into nationals. I'm wrestling with a lot of confidence right now."
The top-ranked Dubuque came back to place third at Big Tens after falling to Ott in double-overtime in the semis.
Simmons' younger brother, junior Andy Simmons, capped a superb weekend with a dominating 8-2 win over Northwestern's Ryan Lang in the 141 finals. Simmons, sixth in the nation last year, was the No. 2 seed and Lang was fifth.
Simmons is determined to come back stronger at nationals after suffering a knee injury in the NCAA semifinals and having to default to sixth.
"Winning this just lifts a huge weight off my shoulders," said Simmons, who placed second in the Big Ten last year. "I feel like this win has gotten me over the hump and I'm so pumped for nationals. My brother and I feed off each other. We both believe we have a chance to make a run at winning national titles this year."
One of the most anticipated finals matchups was relatively short-lived as second-ranked Jake Herbert of Northwestern caught and pinned Iowa's Mark Perry in the 174 finals. The match was tied 2-2 after one period before Herbert emerged on top in a second-period scramble, gained a reversal and turned NCAA runner-up Perry to his back for the fall.
Herbert, third nationally at 174 last year, seemed to enjoy a noticeable size advantage over Perry, who was second in the conference at 165 last year as a freshman. Herbert won his first league title after placing second last year.
"I feel pretty big and strong at my weight," Herbert said. "We got in a little flurry there and I was able to catch him on his back. Once I got him down there I knew I had him locked up pretty tight. This gives me a good boost, knowing I can do that to one of the top contenders for the title. If I can do that to him hopefully I can do that to (Missouri's No. 1 Ben) Askren or whoever I face at nationals."
Michigan All-American Ryan Churella (165) rolled to a 7-0 win over Minnesota's Matt Nagel in the final round. Churella was seeded No. 1 and Nagel, the lone senior starter for the Gophers, was the No. 3 seed.
"I knew the key for me was staying offensive and staying on the attack," said Churella, who repeated as league champion. "I just stayed persistent and finally got the takedown. We've wrestled each other quite a bit, so I just had to get in a good flow out there."
Penn State's second-seeded Phillip Davis blanked No. 1 Tyrone Byrd of Illinois 4-0 in the 197 finals.
"He has a real good high-crotch and I just needed to make sure I stayed clear of that," Davis said. "I have no real plan for nationals. I'm just going to wrestle whoever they give me and try to beat the heck out of them and have fun."