Mar. 6, 1997
Spartans Head To Big 10 Championships
HEAD COACH: Tom Minkel
UP NEXT: Sat.-Sun., March 8-9, Big Ten Championships at Minneapolis, All Day
THIS WEEK: The Michigan State University wrestling team competes in the 83rd Annual Big Ten Championships this Saturday-Sunday, March 8-9 in Minneapolis, Minn. The Spartans, rated 16th nationally, placed third at last year's conference championship meet and have had individual champions the last two years: David Morgan at 118 pounds and Brian Picklo at 190 last year, and Dan Wirnsberger at 158 in 1995. Morgan and Picklo are back to defend their crowns, while senior Erich Harvey is a top contender at 177.
BIG TEN NOTES: Entering this year's Big Ten Championships, Michigan State is looking to improve on its third-place finish from a year ago, when Head Coach Tom Minkel was named Co-Coach of the Year, along with Dan Gable of Iowa...MSU enters the Championships ranked No. 16 by the Amateur Wrestling News...Michigan State last won the Big Ten title in 1972--a title that capped a string of seven straight championships for the Spartans--when Greg Johnson, Pat and Tom Milkovich, Gerry Malecek and Ben Lewis each claimed individual titles...That is the second-longest string of consecutive team title next to Iowa's remarkable run of 23 straight, which the Hawkeyes carry into this weekend...Last season's third-place finish, coupled with a second-place effort in 1995 are MSU's best back-to-back finishes in the Big Ten Championships since the 1983 and 1984 teams both finished second...MSU returns two defending champions this season, junior 118-pounder David Morgan, who last year was named Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships, and senior 190-pounder Brian Picklo, who garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors last season...Also back is senior 177-pounder Erich Harvey, runner-up at that weight a year ago, who now holds the Michigan Sate career record for victories with 140...MSU also returns Greg DeGrand and Jason Peterson, who represented the Spartans at 158 and heavyweight, respectively, a year ago...Last season, Michigan State sent seven wrestlers from the Big Ten Championships on to the NCAA Championships, and in 1995 nine Spartans competed in the NCAA's...Overall in the 1990's MSU wrestlers have qualified 34 times for the NCAA Championships, 26 under Minkel's tutelage...11 wrestlers have combined for 14 All-America honors under Minkel, including 10 different All-Americans in the last two years...Should Morgan and Picklo repeat as champions, they would become the first Spartans to win back-to-back titles since Tom Milkovich won four straight championships at 134/142 pounds from 1970-73...Last year's two championships marked the first time since 1972 that MSU had multiple champions...Harvey has a chance to become the first MSU wrestler to win a Big Ten championship at 177 pounds since Jack Zindel in 1969.
MSU Returnees at Last Year's Big Ten Championships:
118 pounds-David Morgan 158 pounds-Greg DeGrand W - Scott Clough, Wisconsin, F:50 L - Joe Williams, Iowa, 16-5 W - Lindsey Durlacher, Illinois, 11-0 L - Ernest Benion, Illinois, 14-5 W - Mike Mena, Iowa, 2-0, First Place 177 pounds - Erich Harvey 190 pounds - Brian Picklo W - Joe Mahoney, Wisconsin, 9-3 W - Josh Dodd, Minnesota, 6-1 W - Tim Hartung, Minnesota, 12-3 W - Ben Nachtrieb, Indiana, 5-2 W - Jevon Herman, Illinois, 4-1 W - Lee Fullhart, Iowa, 3-1, First Place L - Rohan Gardner, N'Western, 9-8, Second Place Jason Peterson L - Jeff Walter, Wisconsin, 17-3 L - Rob Chicoine, N'Western, F3:58
BIG TEN DOMINANCE: The Big Ten Conference boasts 69 qualifiers to this year's NCAA Championships, by far the highest representation of any conference in the country. The top six finishers in each weight class, plus nine wild-card selections from the Big Ten Championships will advance to the NCAAs.
Eight league schools are among the top 25 teams in the nation heading into the tournament, and 40 Big Ten wrestlers are rated in the top 12 of their individual weight classes.
QUOTING COACH MINKEL: "We finished third last year and second the year before with very mature teams. Individually this year we have some wrestlers who are expected to finish high, and if they wrestle to their potential while we have another one or two who come on strong, we can have a good team finish. We should finish in the first division.
"The number of qualifiers from your conference fluctuates each year depending on previous performance at the NCAAs. Obviously the Big Ten has demonstrated to be the strongest conference over the years. One of our wrestlers could be in the extra three wild cards (Big Ten qualifiers went from 66 last year to 69 this season), which would make us stronger at the NCAAs."
RANKINGS: The latest Amateur Wrestling News rankings are available on the Internet at http://www.intermatwrestle.com. Michigan State is No. 16 in the current (Feb. 26) team poll, while on the individual side Morgan is No. 3 at 118, Harvey No.3 at 177, and Picklo No. 4 at 190. In the Wrestling Institute Newsmagazine rankings, Morgan is No. 1, Harvey No. 2, and Picklo No. 3.
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