W.I.N. wrestling report for Feb



The race to be the best in college wrestling intensified this past weekend, as the top teams and top wrestlers all jockeyed for the best position in the 2003 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, slated for March 20-22 in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO. While the team and individual national championships will be won at that event, seeding in each weight class will be determined on the basis of the regular season's records. Perhaps more importantly, how each team and wrestler did in the regular season will affect the mental makeup of everyone competing at the event, which is the one that receives the most attention of the American wrestling community.

In the team race, the top-ranked and undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys further solidified their hold on the top spot by dominating Nebraska by a 34-6 score on Sat., Feb. 8, at home in Stillwater, OK. Oklahoma State is now 15-0 on the season.

Second-ranked Iowa had mixed results. On Fri., Feb. 7, Iowa wrestled Michigan State to a 19-19 tie in East Lansing, MI, but lost on the basis of the criteria of number of pins, as Michigan State's Arsen Aleksanyan got the only pin of the meet, against Iowa's Jason D'Agata at 165 pounds. Iowa rebounded on Sunday as the Hawkeyes traveled to State College, PA, to defeat Penn State, 26-10, in front of 5100 fans at the Rec Hall. Iowa's record is now 13-3.

Third-ranked and two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota had an impressive weekend. On Fri., Feb. 7, the Golden Gophers won seven of ten matches in defeating Michigan, 22-12, at home in the Sports Pavilion. On Sun., Feb. 9, Minnesota won nine of ten matches over Northwestern to win by a 41-3 score. Minnesota is now 15-4. Minnesota travels to Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 14, to face Iowa in a meet with major implications both in the Big Ten and overall in the team and individuals races.

At 125, top-ranked Chris Fleeger of Purdue pinned Ohio State's Nathan Costello in just 1:23 to up his record to 21-0 and six pins on the season. Second-ranked Travis Lee of Cornell sat out the weekend with an injury.

At 133, where the top spot has changed hands during the season, defending NCAA champion and top-ranked Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State pinned Nebraska's Joey Malia in 2:11 on Sat. Thompson is now 19-2 this year. Second-ranked Ryan Lewis of Minnesota upped his record to 22-2 with a 14-5 major decision over Michigan's Foley Dowd on Fri., and a pin of Nebraska's Jon Ott in 4:24 on Sun.

At 141, the individual race has also been shifting back and forth. Oklahoma State's top-ranked Zack Esposito pinned Nebraska's Dusty Spaulding in 2:00 on Sat. Esposito is now 20-1. Oklahoma's Teyon Ware defeated the same Mr. Spaulding 7-0 on Friday, giving him a 23-4 record. Expect these two to wrestle each other when Oklahoma State takes on Oklahoma on Feb. 23.

At 149, Arizona State's top-ranked Eric Larkin remained undefeated this season with a pin on Sun. He holds two wins this season over second-ranked and defending NCAA champion Jared Lawrence of Minnesota, who upped his record to 21-2 with two wins, including a pin, this weekend.

At 157, Ohio State's top-ranked Keaton Anderson got his 16th straight victory Sunday with an 18-3 tech fall over Purdue's Clovis Crane. Minnesota's second-ranked and defending NCAA champion Luke Becker also got two wins this weekend, making his record 18-2.

At 165, this season has been perfect thus far for Matt Lackey of Illinois. He scored his 27th straight victory Sunday with a 15-6 major decision over Wisconsin's Kelly Flaherty. Second-ranked Tyrone Lewis of Oklahoma State got a 13-2 major decision over Nebraska's Jacob Klein Sat. to up his record to 19-0.

At 174, number one wrestled number two on Mon., Feb. 3, at the NWCA All-Star Classic. Top-ranked Greg Jones of West Virginia remained undefeated, handing the first loss of the season to Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State with a 7-3 win. Jones continued his winning ways Sun. with a 14-3 major decision over Virginia Tech's Steve Borja. Pendleton returned to form with a 13-8 decision Sat. over Nebraska's Travis Pascoe.

At 184, the top two wrestlers also met at the All-Star Classic, with Cornell's Clint Wattenberg pinning Iowa's Jessman Smith in 4:59 after a scramble. Wattenberg decisioned Lehigh's Travis Frick, 4-0, Sat. after beating Columbia's Kirk Davis, 10-6. Fri. Smith, who retained his top ranking despite the loss to Wattenberg, won a 16-5 major decision Friday over Michigan State's Jeff Clemens, and a 6-4 sudden victory decision over Penn State's Mark Becks Sunday.

At 197, Jon Trenge of Lehigh took over the top spot with a 6-4 sudden victory decision over formerly top-ranked Muhammed Lawal of Oklahoma State at the All-Star Classic. Trenge notched two more wins this weekend, pinning Matt Gulliver of North Carolina State in 2:04 Fri., and winning a 6-1 decision over Matt Greenberg of Cornell Sat. Lawal lost again this Sat., the second time this week but only the third time this season, to Justin Ruiz of Nebraska in a 5-3 decision.

And at heavyweight, the best of the big boys this year remained undefeated Steve Mocco of Iowa. The sophomore beat Pat Cummins of Penn State at the All-Star Classic Mon., by a 6-2 score, next scored a tech fall over Michigan State's John Wechter Fri., 27-11, and then beat Cummins again Sun., 5-3. Second-ranked Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State also faced Cummins Thursday, but it was Cummins who scored an upset win, 10-4. Rowlands had defeated Cummins 6-5 at the Midlands. Rowlands rebounded Sunday with an 8-4 win over Purdue's Israel Blevins.

So what does this all mean? That's sort of like asking the meaning of life. Everyone is thriving to survive the best they can. Some make it, others do not. When all is said and done, almost no one remains undefeated, but one team and ten wrestlers will be crowned national champions.

(All rankings are from W.I.N. Magazine's rankings. Compiled from various press releases and college wrestling sources.)

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