Sunday, March 4, 2007

Big XII Wrestling Tournament Wrap-up

“Will it be that close on Saturday?”

Alright….so it is a TAD out of context, but the sentiment was correct. David Zabriskie of Iowa State and Jared Rosholt of Oklahoma State took the mat for the last match of the Big XII Wrestling Championships with the fate and finish of THREE teams still to be decided. If Rosholt, the #2 seed could defeat his opponent, Oklahoma State would collect their ninth Big XII title, likely by one half point. Iowa State would be 2nd place, and Mizzou would finish in third, and two and a half points would separate the top three. As it turned out, Zabriskie used a take down and an escape to take the Heavyweight title, giving Iowa State their first Big XII wrestling title, and giving MU a second place finish, one half point over Oklahoma State in third.

Let’s take a look at my weight class prediction vs. results and see how I did. I think I did pretty well, but I could be wrong. I will finish with some overall thoughts and what I think MU will do in the NCAA tournament in two weeks.

125 pounds:

I chose Sam Hazewinkel (who if you attended on Saturday noticed he went by Hazelwinkel and Hazenwinkel….morons) to take his third Big XII title, and he did not make me out a liar, winning wrestler of the tournament honors on the way to his easy victory. Also predicted was not much from John Olanowski of Mizzou, and that is exactly what Mizzou got with two early losses and exit.

133 pounds:

When I wrote the first column, I did not realize Tyler McCormick and Coleman Scott had actually split on the year, with each winning low-scoring, one point matches. I took Scott because I was just not sure about the health of McCormick coming in. McCormick looked healthy and appears to have gas left in the tank, and lost a VERY tough 6-5 finals against Scott. VERY tough because it appeared McCormick had erased a 6-2 deficit in the third period when he had Scott rolled on his back. The refs felt differently however, not awarding McCormick the back points which would have put him over the top.

141 pounds:

Ashtin Primus will have better days than the one he had on Saturday. He fell early in the 4/5 match-up, and then was shut out in his consolation bout. In the end, my prediction about MU sending nine wrestlers and Primus making an appearance in Detroit was off…oh well. At the same time, I picked Moyer of NU to upset Morgan of Okie State….oh well again. I was correct about the bout, wrong about the finish, as Morgan won his second straight title.

149 pounds:

“but the semi final match in this class between Wagner and Sanderson should be one of the best of the entire day.”

Well…chalk up another one for me…what a wonderful match their semi-final tussle was. Unfortunately, Wagner came out on the short end after a late and toss-up call. Wagner did not quite recover, falling in the 3rd place match after defeating Jackson in OT in the consolation. Rightly so, Wagner did receive one of the eight conference wild cards, and will head to Detroit in two weeks. In the end, Matt Storniolo showed his dominance and won the finals easily over Sanderson from Iowa State.

157 pounds:

Nick Marable did not wrestle, so I suppose that answered that question. Mike Chandler returned from a long lay off and made a very decent showing, coming in 3rd and automatically advancing to the NCAA Championships, where he will be a tough out. Trent Paulson capped a great Big XII career with his win in the finals over Oliver of Nebraska, and will move to Detroit as one of the favorites to take the national title home at the 157 weight class.

165 pounds:

Say what you will about Johny Hendricks (and I have a lot to say), but he figures out a way to win….even if it means getting clocked by an open-handed slap by his opponent. Hendricks was considered lucky to even get out of the semis, as it appeared Stephen Dwyer of NU had him dead to rights during their match. The hold was deemed illegal (perhaps accentuated by Hendricks rather loud choking noise) and Hendricks came back to win. In the finals, after some early and tough hand-fighting, Hendricks appeared to tag ISU’s Travis Paulson in the face. Paulson rose up and CRUSHED Hendricks with an open-handed slap that brought the already pro-Paulson crowd alive. The referee assessed a one point penalty, and Hendricks went on to win the bout 4-3. As for MU’s representative, we will have a little more on Matt Pell later, but he had a disappointing fourth place finish after falling in OT to Dwyer (but not before it appeared Pell should have been awarded a take down which obviously would have taken OT out of the equation).

174 pounds:

Ben Askren won the last home match in his Missouri career in very anti-climactic fashion. His 13-4 defeat of Mason of Okie State was marred by the fact that Mason was clearly wrestling to be able to say he did not get pinned by Askren, but had no interest in doing anything to actually try to win the match. Askren will head to Detroit as the odds on favorite to win his second consecutive NCAA title, and is on the short list of favorites to win the Hodge Trophy (again).

184 pounds:

Raymond Jordan continued his fantastic season by winning his first Big XII title. Jordan had something of a walk-over in his first match against OU’s Josh Hinton. As Jordan took Hinton down early in the first period, time was called and the Hearnes Center crowd was treating to seeing exactly what happens when a kneecap dislocates. Hinton took his one minute and 30 seconds of injury time, and then did the unthinkable as he remained on the mat to continue the match. Jordan, after getting over the initial shock, crushed Hinton 20-4 to advance to a rematch with Jake Varner. In that rematch, Jordan used a gorgeous take down in the third period to provide the needed cushion to take it 3-2. Jordan has lost four matches on the season by a total of five points, and he should head to Detroit full of confidence.

197 pounds:

Maybe Max Askren does not match up all that well with ISU’s Kurt Backes. Backes used a “defensive pin” to defeat Askren at the MU/ISU dual, ending the freshman’s undefeated season and knocking him down to #2 in the national polls. Askren did gain a measure of revenge in the semis, finishing off Backes 8-7. In the finals, taking on Bester of NU (who scored the upset of the day knocking off #2 seed Joel Flaggert 17-2), Askren hung on to take his first title 3-2, giving MU three straight champs for a nice moment in the Hearnes Center.


As mentioned previously, heavyweight held the key to the entire team tournament finish. Mark Ellis of MU was shut out by #2 seed Jared Rosholt in the semis, but recovered nicely winning two matches and earning a ticket to Detroit off of his third place finish. And as predicted, Zabriskie continued his dominance of Rosholt in the finals, and it was enough to propel Iowa State to the title.

Wrap-up and Thoughts:

I took something of a chance picking #2 Moyer over #1 Morgan at 141 because I did not want to be accused of chalking the bracket. Well…I went 9-1…I lost that one. All ten #1 seeds came away with wins yesterday, and why shouldn’t they have. After all, the Big XII had at least one person in the top five of each weight class except HWY coming in.

All told, ISU will send TEN to Detroit, and immediately have to be considered the biggest threat to the eminent coronation of Minnesota as the NCAA champ. MU and Okie State (including NEWLY MCSPADDEN!!) will each send eight wrestlers, and will need some BIG efforts from lesser known people to have a chance to raise the NCAA piece of wood.

As for MU’s chances, there is no reason to believe that Ben Askren will NOT win at 174. At 197, Max Askren should actually enter the NCAA’s as the #1 seed (since Phillip Davis of Penn State fell in the Big 10 Championships). I am not sold on Max’s ability this season to win the title, as I feel he is running out of gas on the year. I hope I am wrong, and maybe it is just his style, but he does not seem to have the explosion at this part of the year. He should definitely still make AA though, as should Raymond Jordan, who stands to enter the tourney as a top four seed because the Big 10 had the top four ranked players and three of them will lose this weekend.

Beyond that, Tyler McCormick was seventh last year, and appears to have been rested properly this season, as he looked fresh this past weekend. I believe that will pay off with another AA finish for him. Beyond that, I think Matt Pell is out of gas. He could benefit from a good seed in the tourney and a good draw, and will be dangerous, but I do not think he simply has enough energy to get deep enough to place. I think Josh Wagner will be a tough out and likely win a couple of matches, as should Mike Chandler. Mark Ellis could be the surprise, since the HWY division in the NCAA is not a “power conference” heavy class, so you never quite know what the west coast and smaller schools will bring to the table. Not a favorite to make AA, I believe he has the best shot out of the bunch to be a “surprise”.

One champ and three other All-Americans will give MU their best finish ever (10th was the previous high, and that was achieved last year with Askren’s #1 and McCormick’s #7). I believe Minnesota will run away with the team title. Iowa State will show VERY well, and Oklahoma State will do the same as they should expect at least one more champ. For Mizzou to have a chance to win, they will need both Askrens to win their class, and for Jordan, McCormick and likely two others to place All-American with the other two wrestlers winning at least a few matches before bowing out. Is it possible? Sure….likely? Not quite as much, but overall it will be a step in the right direction for this growing program.