Over the weekend, the Spartan wrestling team competed at the Big Ten Championship in Madison, Wis. And while the team placed last with 21.5 points, there were bright spots for the men of Sparta.
Senior Bobby Nash, 165 pounds, placed ninth after his 7-3 victory over Purdue’s Pat Robinson. Junior John Rizqallah, 184 pounds, placed seventh thanks to a 4-2 decision over Indiana’s Luke Sheridan. Rizqallah also earned his second-straight trip to the NCAA Championships after his victory.
Rizqallah (19-10) got a takedown late in the first period to gain a 2-0 lead and led 2-1 after two periods. Sheridan cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period, Rizqallah added a bonus point for riding time and finished the match with a score of 4-2.
Senior heavyweight Mike McClure (27-7) finished in fourth after taking a difficult 3-2 decision, to fourth-seeded Bobby Telford of Iowa, in the third-place match. McClure, sixth-seeded, fought for a hasty takedown and led 2-1 after the first period, but Telford rode McClure out in the second. In the final period, Telford escaped to tie at 2-2 and tacked on a riding-time point for the victory.
In his first match of the day, McClure pinned Jon Gingrich of Penn State in 4:53 in the consolation semifinals for his ninth fall of the season. This marked the 23rd fall of McClure’s career, which moved him into a tie for ninth place all-time along with Jeff Smith.
McClure also clinched his second consecutive NCAA Championship berth with three victories on Sunday. Rizqallah upset fourth-seeded T.J. Dudley of Nebraska in the first consolation match 7-6 on Saturday. He nearly won his second consecutive overtime match to clinch a top-seven finish, but lost 4-2 in a gut-wrenching match to Nikko Reyes of Illinois.
McClure had gone 1-1 on the day for Saturday, losing his first match to Michael McMullan of Northwestern in the quarterfinals. He then bounced back with a 2-0 shutout of Illinois’ Chris Lopez.
The NCAA Championships are set for March 20-22 (Thursday-Saturday) in Oklahoma City, Okla. Two of State’s finest will be there already, and the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person this week to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers. Those bids will be announced this Wednesday.
All weight classes at the tourney will consist of 33 wrestlers. The at-large selections will be based on certain criteria: head-to-head contests, qualifying event placement, quality wins, results against common opponents, winning percentage, RPI, coaches ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class.
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Pinned Down Prediction
So I was wrong. Iowa did not take the Big Ten Championship like I predicted on Saturday. It happens to the best of us, and I apologize for that. Iowa was a close second in the final score at the Big Ten Championship. Omnipresent champion, Penn State, won the dual with a score of 140.5 points closely followed by Iowa with 134 and third place Minnesota with 114.5. I thought that the Hawkeyes could upset the Nittany Lions, evidently not.
Nick Carver is the host of Pinned Down for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports