Fourth Place Big Ten Finish for Iowa Grapplers

<P>Iowa finished fourth in the 2005 Big Ten Championships behind Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. Indiana and Wisconsin tied for fifth. Iowa will send seven wrestlers to the national tournament in St. Louis starting Thursday, March 17th. Minnesota was the only team to send all 10 wrestlers. Illinois will send nine, while Michigan and Wisconsin will send eight and Indiana will send seven.

Going into the final session Iowa had 6 guys still shooting for 3rd place. Mario Galanakis lost a close match to Tom Clum from Wisconsin 5-3. Mario was in on a couple shots but couldn't finish them. Mario then faced TJ Enright from Ohio State for 5th place. The first period ended 4-4 as Mario had two takedowns but gave up two escapes and a takedown. Galanakis got an escape early in the 2nd period and the rest of the match was wrestled on their feet as Mario fought off some late shots by Enright, winning 5-4.

Alex Tsirtsis lost for the second time this year to fellow freshman Ryan Lang from Northwestern. This was a really bad match for Alex as Lang took him down twice, got a reversal, and put Alex on his back a couple times for the 12-1 victory. Alex dropped to the 5th place match but didn't have to wrestle as Mike Simpson from Indiana had to forfeit due to injury. Simpson got hurt in the previous round and had to forfeit that match as well.

Ty Eustice had a tough match with Quincy Osborn from Minnesota in the consolation semis. Ty scored two takedowns and two escapes in the 6-4 victory. Ty wrestled Darren McKnight in the third place bout winning a 3-1 decision. Ty scored a takedown in the first period, an escape in the second and gave up an escape in the third. This match didn't seem as close as the score. Ty pressured McKnight the entire match taking shot after shot. McKnight did a good job of blocking off Ty but was never really a threat to score on him. I'm not quite sure how McKnight avoided stalling calls as he never really did anything.

Joe Johnston wrestled the unseeded Colton Salazar from Purdue in his first match of the day. Salazar was no match for Joe's energy. Johnston took a 5-1 lead into the third period and added to it with a few takedowns to finish off Salazar 12-4. Joe faced the highly touted freshman C.P. Schlatter from Minnesota for 3rd place. Schlatter is built much like Johnston, kind of short but muscular. The first period ended 3-3 as they exchanged takedowns and escapes. Schlatter had a takedown in the second period but Johnston had one of his own as well as an escape. Joe was up 6-5 heading into the third. Joe was able to get another escape and with riding time defeated Schlatter 8-5.

Mark Perry was Iowa's lone finalist and had a tough match ahead with Ryan Churella from Michigan. Churella lost his first match of the year to defending national champ Troy Letters from Lehigh. Churella has not lost since, racking up 28 straight wins including a 7-5 decision over Perry in the dual meet this year.

Churella scored the only points of the first period with a takedown. Perry started the 2nd period on top but after riding Churella for roughly 30 seconds Churella was able to reverse Perry for a 4-0 lead. Perry was able to get an escape but not after Churella was able to accumulate roughly 90 seconds of riding time. Perry chose to start on their feet in the third period and after a takedown and a Churella escape Perry was still down 5-3. Perry was able to get another takedown with roughly 15 seconds left but didn't realize that Churella had enough riding time to earn a point. Perry continued to ride out Churella and when the whistle blew ran to the center of the mat ready for overtime. Little did he realize Churella had 1:07 of riding time, earning the winning point and a 6-5 victory.

Paul Bradley controlled Roger Kish in his consolation semis match. Bradley had two takedowns and an escape in the 5-1 win. Facing Bradley for third place was Brady Reineke from Wisconsin. Bradley has wrestled Reineke twice and lost both matches in tight battles. Bradley started the match well with a takedown and led 2-1 going into the second period. Bradley scored an escape in the 2nd and led 3-1 after two. Bradley appeared to be in control even after a Reineke escape made it 3-2. With roughly 30 seconds left Reineke was able to finish a shot and take his first lead at 4-3. Bradley still had about 30 seconds to earn an escape but he never came close to getting out.

Adam Fellers had a 7th place match against Matt Koz from Minnesota. Fellers beat Koz in the dual meet earlier in the year on a takedown in the first overtime 3-1. This match had a lot more scoring as they entered overtime tied 7-7. There was no scoring in the sudden death overtime period so they headed to a second overtime. Fellers didn't really try riding Koz as he let him go about 3 seconds into the 30 second period. Fellers started the third overtime period on bottom but was never able to get loose as Koz secured the last spot for nationals in the 197 weight class.

At heavyweight Matt Fields lost in the consolation semis to Greg Wagner from Michigan 6-2. Wagner controlled the match from the start as Fields was never able to threaten. Fields had a 5th place match with Mike Behnke from Illinois. A win against Behnke would secure a 4th place finish for the Hawks in the team race. Fields left not doubt in this match as he attacked from the start. The only scoring in the first period was a takedown by Fields but he was controlling the action. Fields got an escape, a takedown, and locked up a cradle on Behnke for a 3 point near fall to lead 8-0 going into the third. Fields got another takedown but gave up an escape and a late takedown to win 12- 3 with riding time.

Analysis

Iowa was going to have to wrestle above their seeds to have any chance of winning the Big Tens. Unfortunately only two wrestlers finished above their seeds as Paul Bradley who came in as a 5 seed finished 4th and unseeded Adam Fellers finished 8th but just missed qualifying for nationals. Three Iowa grapplers wrestled below their seeds as Mario Galanakis came in seeded 4th and finished 5th, Eustice came in seeded 2nd but finished in 3rd, and Falck came in as a number 8 but failed to win a match at all. Tsirtsis, Johnston, Perry, and Fields all finished exactly where they were seeded.

It doesn't look like Iowa will be a serious contender in St. Louis but they should gain valuable experience that will help next year. Illinois will be one of the favorites with 9 qualifiers and 2 Big Ten champs. Minnesota looks to be peaking at the right time and qualified all 10 wrestlers. Michigan should also contend for the championship having a few guys that could get to the finals. Michigan led the tournament with 3 champions. Indiana had an outstanding tournament qualifying 7 of the 9 guys that wrestled. Indiana's 133 pounder did not make weight Saturday morning. The impressive thing about Indiana was that all 9 guys wrestled at or above their seeds with the exception of Mike Simpson who had to default two matches.

The two wild card spots went to 184 pounder Nathan Galloway from Penn State and heavyweight Kirk Nail from Ohio State. Galloway lost a controversial 7th place match to Turner from Wisconsin.

Coach Mark Johnson from Illinois was voted coach of the year by his peers. Ryan Bertin was voted wrestler of the year in the Big Ten despite his finals loss to Alex Tirapelle from Illinois. Iowa native Mack Reiter was voted freshman of the year in the Big Ten and also received the Outstanding Wrestler award for winning the championship over #1 seeded Mark Jayne of Illinois with a pin. Reiter bear-hugged Jayne to his back in the second period recording the fall at 4:36. The ovation for Reiter was as loud as any wrestler received all day.

Thanks to Dave Luze and Brian Finley for their work on the Big Ten tournament this weekend


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