USA Wrestling

Mar 03 No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Iowa, No. 1 Penn State locked in close battle at Big Ten Championships

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | March 03, 2012, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
Iowa's Derek St. John defeats Penn State's Dylan Alton to advance to the Big Ten finals for the second straight season. Photo by Darren Miller, University of Iowa.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- There is a reason Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa occupy the top three spots in the national rankings.

It certainly played out that way in another wild, wacky and drama-filled version of the Big Ten Championships on Saturday before 3,617 fans at Purdue's Mackey Arena.

The team race remains very much up for grabs entering the second and final day of the event.

Second-ranked Minnesota leads with 117 points and five in the finals. Third-ranked Iowa has 112.5 points and six in the finals. Top-ranked Penn State, the 2011 Big Ten and NCAA tournament champion, is third with 111 points and three in the finals.

The Gophers went 5-1 in the semifinal round while the Hawkeyes went 6-2 and the Nittany Lions 3-5. Minnesota has the lead even though No. 1 seed Sonny Yohn was upset in Saturday's first session at 197. Yohn bounced back to win two matches in Saturday's second session.

"This tournament obviously isn't over until it's over," Minnesota coach J Robinson said. "We told our guys there was going to be some adversity and we've had to overcome some in this tournament. All of our guys are wrestling hard. The wrestlebacks are going to make a huge difference tomorrow."

Wrestling resumes Sunday at 1 p.m. with the finals set for 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The finals will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Minnesota's Zach Sanders (125), Dylan Ness (149), Logan Storley (174), Kevin Steinhaus (184) and Tony Nelson (heavyweight) reached the finals. Storley and Ness, a pair of freshman, rallied for semifinal wins.

Ness rallied to beat 2011 Big Ten runner-up Eric Grajales of Michigan 9-7. Storley gained a reversal right at the end of regulation to tie the match before scoring a takedown to beat Iowa's Ethen Lofthouse in overtime.

"We have four freshmen in our lineup and they can all still score points for us in this tournament," Robinson said. "That's what they've done all year for us."

Iowa's finalists include returning Big Ten champion Matt McDonough (125) along with Tony Ramos (133), past NCAA runner-up Montell Marion (141), Derek St. John (157), Mike Evans (165) and Bobby Telford (heavyweight).

St. John and Telford, who are both No. 6 seeds, earned big wins over Penn State wrestlers in the semifinals. St. John, second in this tournament last year, outlasted No. 2 seed Dylan Alton 3-1 in overtime. Telford, a freshman, beat No. 2 seed Cameron Wade 5-0.

"It was just another wrestling match," St. John said. "You learn how to adapt and you go with it. I know what to expect and you just have to go out there and compete. The goal's to win it, whether you are the No. 1 seed or the No. 6 seed."

Penn State has finalists in returning Big Ten champions Frank Molinaro (149), David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174). Returning Big Ten and NCAA champion Quentin Wright fell to Nebraska's Josh Ihnen by a 3-1 score in the 184 semifinals.

The Big Ten has secured 74 automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships, set for March 15-17 in St. Louis. An additional 40 at-large spots will be awarded from all conferences on Wednesday for the NCAA tournament.

Michigan senior Kellen Russell (141) kept his hopes alive for a fourth Big Ten title by reaching the finals. Russell, who won an NCAA title last year, edged Minnesota freshman Nick Dardanes 3-1 in overtime in the semifinals. Russell will face Marion in the finals.

"It's tough to win one Big Ten title and I'm fortunate to have won three," Russell said. "Everybody in the Big Ten is tough. I need to stick to my game plan and get a little more offensive."

Illinois is fourth with 81.5 points and a finalist in Mario Gonzalez (197). Ohio State is fifth with 76 points and a finalist in Logan Stieber (133). Stieber was a Junior World silver medalist in freestyle in 2011.

TEAM SCORING
Minnesota 117, Iowa 112.5, Penn State 111, Illinois 81.5, Ohio State 76, Northwestern 61.5, Nebraska 56.5, Michigan 50, Purdue 47.5, Indiana 35.5, Michigan State 35.5, Wisconsin 9.

FINALS MATCHUPS

125 pounds
Matt McDonough (Iowa) vs. Zach Sanders (Minnesota)

133 Pounds
Logan Stieber (Ohio State) vs. Tony Ramos (Iowa)

141 Pounds
Kellen Russell (Michigan) vs. Montell Marion (Iowa)

149 Pounds
Frank Molinaro (Penn State) vs. Dylan Ness (Minnesota)

157 Pounds
Jason Welch (Northwestern) vs. Derek St. John (Iowa)

165 Pounds
David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Mike Evans (Iowa)

174 Pounds
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Logan Storley (Minnesota)

184 Pounds
Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota) vs. Josh Ihnen (Nebraska)

197 Pounds
Mario Gonzalez (Illinois) vs. Matt Powless (Indiana)

285 Pounds
Tony Nelson (Minnesota) vs. Bobby Telford (Iowa)
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