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BIG TEN SECOND SESSION REPORT: Minnesota leads, but their momentum train has been slowed



Going into the second session of the Big Ten Championships, everybody was asking whether anybody could stop the Minnesota train, which barrelled through the first session in a dominant fashion. After the semifinals were over, the answer was yes. The train had been slowed, at least a little bit. The session began with consolation matches. These don't have the glamour of the championship bracket, but the importance is clear. Lose and your dream of going to the NCAA Championships is done. Ask Jason Silverstein of Purdue, a former All-American and No. 4 seed at 125 pounds here. After Silverstein lost to Josh Moore of Penn State in this wrestle-back round, he was out. His season is over. The Iowa crowd is here in big numbers and is especially loud during the consolation round. Iowa has five guys in the wrestle-backs, and need to keep them all going to have a shot at the title. The crowd is a little muted during many of these matches, waiting for the semifinals. However, when an Iowa guy gets a pin, like Ben Shirk at 165 pounds, the Hawkeye faithful go wild. The semifinals began according to script, as the top two seeds made the finals at 125 pounds. No. 1 Jody Strittmatter of Iowa was dominant on his feet, on the way to a 10-1 win over No. 5 A.J. Grant of Michigan. On the next mat, Leroy Vega of Minnesota scored third period back points to defeat No. 6 Chris Williams of Michigan State, 8-3 At 133 pounds, the hottest wrestler in the tournament, No. 6 Kevin Black of Wisconsin, scored a stunning pin over No. 2 Pat McNamara of Michigan State in 5:33. Black now owns wins over the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. He'll have a shot at No. 1 as well, since defending national champion Eric Juergens of Iowa beat Evan Robinson of Purdue soundly, 10-2. At 141 pounds, the seeds held up, as No. 1 Doug Schwab of Iowa and No. 2 Chad Erikson of Minnesota will meet in the finals. Another Minnesota vs. Iowa final, certain to get the crowd going. Schwab, a former NCAA champion, stopped No. 4 Robert Sessley of Ohio State, 4-1 and Erikson handled No. 6 Grant Hoerr of Wisconsin, 7-2. The 149 pound class will feature the top two seeds as well, as No. 1 Adam Tirapelle of Illinois and No. 2 Jared Lawrence of Minnesota advance with semifinal wins. Tirapelle, who was second in last year's NCAA's had a close match early, but defeated Mike Kulczycki of Michigan, 6-3. Lawrence was able to open it up with takedowns and near falls, defeating No. 3 Keaton Anderson of Ohio State, 12-5. The nation's top 157-pounder T.J. Williams of Iowa was all business, stopping No. 5 Griff Powell of Michigan, 13-3. On the other side, Minnesota's No. 2 Luke Becker also had an easy go of it, stopping No. 3 Gray Maynard of Michigan State, 6-4. Halfway through the semis, and it seemed like Minnesota's run was continuing unchecked. The Gophers led the Iowa Hawkeyes by 20.5 points at this point. Other teams would need to hault the run in the upper weights or the train was going to go right past the station. A bit of help came at 165 pounds, with the holding of the seeds. No. 1 Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin was his dominant self with a commanding 12-4 win over No. 4 Kevin Stanley of Indiana. On the other side, Matt Lackey of Illinois scored the winning takedown with seven seconds left for a 3-1 win over No. 3 Brad Pike of Minnesota. It was the start of a four-match losing streak for the Gophers, which opened up the team race for sure. Iowa slipped back a bit at 174, when No. 6 Ryan Hieber of Ohio State upset the Hawkeye's No. 2 seed Gabe McMahon, 9-5. Top seed Otto Olson of Michigan had a close go, beating Minnesota's Jacob Volkman, 3-2. At 184, Minnesota needed a boost from No. 3 Damion Hahn, the talented freshman. Facing close rival No. 2 Victor Sveda of Indiana, the match ended as a wild 8-8 tie in regulation. Nobody scored in sudden victory, so it went to the tiebreaker. Sveda dropped in a double grapevine for the first 25 seconds, until a stalemate was called. Hahn exploded off the whistle but could not get away in the final five ticks, and Sveda had the win. On the other side, top seeded Nate Patrick of Illinois held his own with a 9-5 win over Andy Hrovat of Michigan. The Gophers slide continued at 197, when No. 1 Owen Elzen was upset by No. 5 Pat Quirk of Illinois, 3-2. Quirk, a former All-American, showed what experience means in a big event. In the other bracket, in a battle of relative unknowns, No. 7 John Bush of Purdue stopped No. 6 Ty Matthews of Indiana, 16-10. At heavyweight, the Gopher train stayed on the rails, as No. 2 Garrett Lowney edged No. 3 Matt Brink of Michigan, 4-2. Lowney remains unbeaten as a collegian, his first season since winning an Olympic bronze medal in Greco-Roman last summer. In a major upset, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the nation, Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State, was upset by No. 4 John Lockhart of Illinois, 4-3. The highly anticipated freshman final between Rowlands and Lowney did not materialize. Minnesota led after the first day, with 124.5 points, followed by Illinois with 110.5 points. Iowa was third, with 101.5 points. Michigan is No. 4 with 87.5 points, closely followed by Ohio State with 86 points. Wisconsin was sixth with 62.5 points, followed by Indiana with 54 points. Closing out the teams were Michigan State 47.5, Purdue 45.5, Penn State 29 and Northwestern 6.
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