March 9, 2014
MADISON, Wis. - Senior heavyweight Mike McClure placed fourth and junior 184-pounder John Rizqallah took seventh as the Big Ten Wrestling Championships concluded Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center. Both McClure and Rizqallah qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.
McClure (27-7) finished in fourth after dropping a tough 3-2 decision to fourth-seeded Bobby Telford of Iowa in the third-place match. McClure, seeded sixth, produced an early takedown and led 2-1 after the first period, but Telford rode out McClure in the second period. In the third, Telford escaped to tie it at 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 team-leading ninth fall of the season. It marked the 23rd fall of McClure's career, which moved him into a tie for ninth place all-time at MSU, along with Jeff Smith.
McClure clinched his berth to the NCAA Championships with three victories on Saturday.
"Mike's performance this weekend proves he's right in the mix (for a national title)," said MSU head coach Tom Minkel, as seven of the top-eight ranked heayweights in the nation are from the Big Ten. "The heavyweight class in the Big Ten is incredible. It was clear at the end of this tournament that anyone can win it (top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Adam Coon of Michigan finished in ninth place; fifth-seeded Tony Nelson of Minnesota won the Big Ten title).
"Mike lost a couple of matches, but all of his matches were hard fought and close. He's awfully disappointed right now (that he didn't win a Big Ten Championship), but we'll spend the next week and a half working on some little details, and he'll be ready to go in Oklahoma City."
Rizqallah, who received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships last season, qualified automatically this year after defeating Luke Sheridan of Indiana in the seventh-place match, 4-2. The top seven wrestlers in the 184-pound weight class all earned trips to nationals.
Rizqallah (19-10) notched a takedown late in the first period to go up 2-0, and led 2-1 after two periods. Although Sheridan cut Rizqallah's lead to 3-2 in the third period, Rizqallah still had a bonus point for riding time in his favor, and he finished the bout with a 4-2 decision.
"John had a good, solid tournament," Minkel said. "He secured a spot in the NCAAs. The pressure here is enormous, especially when you're sort of fighting for your life to get in the NCAAs, but he handled it well. I think he learned a lot from this weekend."
In the ninth-place match at 165 pounds, senior Bobby Nash (17-17) recorded a 7-3 decision over Purdue's Pat Robinson.
"I think Bobby Nash has a very good shot to get an at-large bid to the NCAAs," said Minkel. "He's beaten a few guys already in the NCAA field, and that is the first criteria. That will be his main argument to get into the field."
At 197 pounds, junior Nick McDiarmid (18-11) lost 3-1 in sudden victory to Caleb Kolb of Nebraska in the ninth-place match.
The Spartans finished in 12th place in the team standings with 21.5 points. Penn State claimed first, followed by Iowa and Minnesota.
"This was the best and toughest Big Ten Wrestling Championships I've ever been to," said Minkel, as the Big Ten features eight Top 25 teams, including five in the Top 11 of the latest NWCA/USA TODAY Coaches Poll. "It's really a remarkable event with some outstanding wrestling. As a team, we didn't quite get the wins that we wanted to, but our guys were in almost every match. We had some really hard, hard-fought matches."
The NCAA Championships are set for March 20-22 (Thursday-Saturday) in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person this week to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers who didn't qualify automatically for nationals during the conference tournaments; those bids will be announced on Wednesday, March 12. All weight classes at the NCAA Championships will consist of 33 wrestlers. The at-large selections will be made based on the following criteria: head-to-head competition; qualifying event placement; quality wins; results against common opponents; winning percentage; RPI; coaches ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class.