Spartans Travel to No. 12 Michigan, Host No. 15 Illinois This Weekend
Jan. 23, 2014
SPARTANS TRAVEL TO No. 12 MICHIGAN, HOST No. 15 ILLINOIS THIS WEEKEND
The Spartans (5-6, 0-3 Big Ten) are coming off a home loss to then-No. 2 Minnesota last Friday, 35-3. Michigan (7-2, 3-0) upset the Gophers in Ann Arbor, 19-14, last Sunday, and also beat Illinois in Champaign, Ill., last Friday, 19-13. Illinois (6-4, 0-3) will take on top-ranked Penn State on Friday before heading to East Lansing to face MSU.
"There's an intensity to this rivalry that's rather unique," said MSU head coach Tom Minkel. "In the state of Michigan, everyone knows everybody. In a lot of cases, our kids grew up with their kids and had rivalries with them in high school.
"You know you have to stick together," added Minkel when talking about the atmosphere of wrestling a rival on the road. "Everybody knows when you get out on that mat, it's going to be tough, but at the same time, it's really one of the great things about college wrestling. When you have these kinds of rivalries, the wrestling really goes to another level. It's good for the wrestlers, it's good for the fans, and it's good for the sport."
Minkel has seen improvement from his team during the Big Ten season, but is looking for more this weekend against the Wolverines and Fighting Illini.
"We have two primary needs that we need to improve on," he said. "We need to keep better position on our feet. We can't give a guy an opportunity to take us down without it being a real fight. That's an area that takes a lot of discipline.
"What happens a lot of times during the beginning of the year is you wrestle some mid-level competition, and you can make some mistakes and be out of position and still win. You get an illusion that you can do that at every level. But the fact of the matter is, when you wrestle in the Big Ten and the higher level competition, the less you can be out of position and not pay for it. We're starting I think to figure that out.
"The second thing is that we have to do a better job of getting off the bottom. We've been ridden too much and we've been hung up on the bottom. Those are our two main challenges."
YET ANOTHER RANKED OPPONENT
SPARTANS IN THE RANKINGS
SERIES HISTORY AGAINST MICHIGAN
SERIES HISTORY AGAINST ILLINOIS
McCLURE ANCHORS TEAM AT HEAVYWEIGHT
Ranked ninth by InterMat, McClure has collected a 17-4 overall record, including an 8-3 mark in dual meets. He's also tied for the team lead with five falls. McClure is 2-3 against ranked opponents, with victories over No. 18 William Smith (Rutgers) and No. 6 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) and losses to No. 8 Adam Chalfant (Indiana), No. 4 Bobby Telford (Iowa) and No. 2 Tony Nelson (Minnesota). McClure will wrestle his third straight top-five opponent on Friday as he will face No. 1 Adam Coon of Michigan. Coon upset Nelson of Minnesota in the dual on Jan. 19 in Ann Arbor, as he recorded a 4-2 (SV2) victory.
McClure is 9-1 in open tournaments this season and claimed first place at both the Northern Iowa Open in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Dec. 14 and the Cradle Gear Invitational in Lock Haven, Pa., on Dec. 29.
RIZQALLAH MAKING NOISE AT 184 POUNDS
Rizqallah is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season, including a victory over No. 15 Jackson Hein of Wisconsin in the dual against the Badgers on Dec. 8. Rizqallah nearly upset No. 3 Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa on Jan. 4 in Iowa City, but lost 4-2 after giving up the lead in the third period.
Rizqallah, who qualified for the NCAA Championships last season, owns a 50-23 career record.
LAST TIME OUT: SPARTANS FALL TO No. 2 MINNESOTA, GIBBS EARNS WIN At 141 POUNDS
Sophomore Brian Gibbs proved to be a bright spot for the Spartans, as he rallied to defeat Josh Shupe at 141 pounds. Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, Gibbs quickly escaped to tie the score at 1, then delivered the winning takedown with 45 seconds remaining in the match. Shupe tallied an escape with 11 seconds left, but Gibbs held him off for the win.
"Brian did what we asked - he was the aggressor, he got his position, and really created a lot of pressure," commented MSU head coach Tom Minkel following the dual. "And that's what you have to do. Brian is good enough where he can force that. That was a big step for him and hopefully he can keep it going."
In the marquee match of the dual, two-time defending national champion and second-ranked Tony Nelson held off No. 9 Mike McClure, 2-0. After a scoreless first, Nelson got on the board with an escape 17 seconds into the second period. With Nelson on top to start the third, McClure nearly escaped several times, but Nelson ended up holding him down the entire period to collect 1:43 of riding time in the 2-0 win.
"I thought Mike McClure's match was outstanding," said Minkel. "He's made some real progress since the last time they wrestled (last season). Mike was in it the whole match. He's made some adjustments and even though he didn't win the match, I think we all saw that he's certainly on the right track."
SPARTANS CLAIM FIRST PLACE AT CRADLE GEAR INVITATIONAL
McDIARMID STEPPING UP AT 197 POUNDS
SEVEN SPARTANS PLACE AT PURPLE RAIDER OPEN; PENNELL WINS 149-POUND TITLE
Freshman Javier Gasca placed in his fifth tournament of the season by taking runner-up at 133 pounds. Gasca won his first three matches before dropping a 7-3 decision to Sammy White of Notre Dame College in the championship bout. Gasca also has placed in the MSU Open (third), Eastern Michigan Open (fifth), Wisconsin Open (third) and Reno Tournament of Champions (second).
Travis Curley (165 pounds) and Jordan Wohlfert (174 pounds) also took home runner-up honors in their respective weight classes. In addition, Terry Turner (fourth at 141), Kaelan Richards (fourth at 149) and Chris Nash (third at heavyweight) placed for the Spartans.
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