Spartans Head to Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Madison
John Rizqallah is looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row.

March 6, 2014

2014 Big Ten Wrestling Championships
 Location Madison, Wis. | Kohl Center
 Session 1 Saturday, 11 a.m. ET (First round, quarterfinals)
 Session 2 Saturday, 6 p.m. ET (semifinals, wrestlebacks)
 Session 3 Sunday, 12 p.m. ET (consolation semifinals, seventh-place matches)
 Session 4 Sunday, 2 p.m. ET (first-, third- and fifth-place matches)
 Coverage Sessions 1-3 will be streamed live for purchase through the Big Ten Digital Network on; Session 4 will be televised live on BTN and the BTN2Go mobile app.
Official Big Ten Championships Website
 Social Media Twitter updates @wrestlingmsu | @B1GWrestling
 Live Brackets | Brackets (PDF)
 Notes Michigan State | Big Ten
 Statistics  Michigan State

Session 1 | Watch Live | BTDN 
Session 2 | Watch Live | BTDN 
Session 3 | Watch Live | BTDN 
3rd Place | Watch Live | BTDN 

After closing the regular season on a three-match winning streak, Michigan State will look to keep its momentum going this weekend at the 100th annual Big Ten Wrestling Championships March 8-9 (Saturday-Sunday) in Madison, Wis., at the Kohl Center. The Spartans (8-10) finished the Big Ten dual season with an 18-16 come-from-behind victory at Indiana on Feb. 9, shut out Olivet College on Senior Day Feb. 14 at Jenison Field House, 40-0, and topped No. 25 Central Michigan on the road Feb. 22, 18-14.

The Big Ten Championships are the most prestigious conference championships in the nation, year in and year out. Eight teams from the Big Ten are currently ranked in the Top 25 of the NWCA/USA Today Coaches' Poll, including five in the top 11 (No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Michigan, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 19 Northwestern and No. 20 Illinois).

Three Spartans have earned top-nine pre-seeds for the Big Ten Championships, led by sixth-seeded Mike McClure at heavyweight. Junior John Rizqallah was tabbed a No. 8 seed at 184 pounds, while junior Nick McDiarmid earned a No. 9 seed at 197 pounds. The pre-seeds, as voted on by the conference's coaches, rank the top eight wrestlers in five weight classes, along with 12 schools' starters in five weight classes due to the Big Ten receiving eight or more NCAA Championships qualifier allocations in those classes. Each team enters the championships with a seeded wrestler in the 133-, 157-, 165-, 197- and 285-pound weight classes.

All four sessions will be broadcast live on BTN or streamed online. As part of the Big Ten Digital Network's (BTDN) subscription package, BTN will provide live streaming coverage of the Big Ten wrestling preliminaries, beginning at 11 a.m. ET Saturday. Streaming coverage of select matches in Sessions II and III will continue at 6 p.m. ET Saturday and at 12 p.m. ET Sunday, respectively. On Sunday, Session IV of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships will be carried live at 2 p.m. ET on BTN. The network's Jim Gibbons, Tim Johnson and Shane Sparks will call the action from the Kohl Center.

• Senior heavyweight Mike McClure, who leads the team in wins (23), dual wins (14), dual points (54) and falls (8), is ranked No. 7 in the nation by InterMat. McClure owns victories in the regular season over top-seeded Adam Coon of Michigan and seventh-seeded Connor Medbery of Wisconsin. McClure placed seventh at last year's Big Ten Championships in his first appearance to qualify for the NCAA Championships. He is seeded sixth.

• Junior 197-pounder Nick McDiarmid (17-8) has won five of his last seven matches and went 4-4 in Big Ten duals. He is seeded ninth and looking to qualify for his first NCAA Championships.

• Junior John Rizqallah, who qualified for the NCAA Championships last season as a wild card, is seeded eighth at 184 pounds. Rizqallah owns a 17-8 record, including an 11-7 mark in duals.

• Michigan State has won eight Big Ten titles, including seven in a row from 1966-72.

• Spartans have won 68 Big Ten individual championships in program history.

• MSU's first Big Ten title came in 1961 under Coach Fendley Collins, while the rest came under the guidance of Grady Peninger.

• Coach Tom Minkel's highest finish at the Big Ten Championships was second in 1995; MSU also placed third in 1996 and tied for third in 2003.

• MSU's last Big Ten Champion was Franklin Gomez, who won two 133-pound titles (2008, 2009).

• The NCAA announced the qualifier allocations for the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Feb. 27. Each qualifying tournament was awarded spots per weight class based on current year data. Each wrestler was measured on the following: Division I winning percentage; rating percentage index (RPI); and coaches ranking. For each wrestler that reached the threshold in at least two of the three categories, his qualifying tournament was awarded a qualifying spot in that weight class.

• Each qualifying tournament, with automatic qualifying status, was awarded a minimum of one wrestler per weight class, which will go to the tournament champion, even if they did not have any wrestlers reach at least two of the three thresholds. NCAA tournament spots for each qualifying event will be awarded at the tournament based solely on place-finish.

• This year, the following allocation numbers per weight class for the Big Ten are: 125 (7), 133 (8), 141 (6), 149 (6), 157 (8), 165 (8), 174 (7), 184 (7), 197 (8), and heavyweight (9). The Big Ten leads all conference with 74 qualifiers; the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association is second with 47.

• After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 12. All weight classes 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.

• The NCAA Championships will be held March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The NCAA released the final coaches' panel rankings and the final Rating Percentage Index (RPI) for the 2013-14 wrestling season on Feb. 27. The final rankings and the RPI will be one of the tools used as part of the selection process to determine the qualifiers for the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Three Spartans were ranked in the final poll: John Rizqallah (184) - No. 12 RPI/No. 24 Coaches; Nick McDiarmid (197) - No. 27 RPI/No. 33 Coaches; and Mike McClure (285): No. 6 RPI/No. 7 Coaches

On the team's performance over the last three weeks...
"Being confident and being ready to go at the Big Ten time of year is really very, very important. You get here and everything that you've done is really a preparation for this tournament which gives you a chance to move on to the national championships, so we are very, very pleased that our team seems to be peaking, I guess is one word, or significantly making improvements. I feel like we are wrestling our very best now, and this is when you want to be wrestling your very best. Things seem to be coming together and the guys are making good progress and we feel pretty good about where we are."

On preparing his wrestlers for the difficult competition of the Big Ten Championships...
"Really, it is about focusing on what you can control. You don't want to get caught up in the bigger picture. It's really about you and the matches that you draw and about wrestling your very best. The competition is very, very tough. At the national championships, the talent is spread out, but in the Big Ten it is very condensed and you have 12 great teams and a huge pool of the top wrestlers in the country. Whoever you draw, that needs to be your concern, not the seven, eight, nine guys you won't see, or not the fact that you're in this very prestigious event. Our message to our kids is `Let's focus on what we can control. Let's wrestle each match, each period, each situation as well as we can and not worry about other things.'"

Previewing the Big Ten Championships at heavyweight...
"It is probably the strongest weight in the Big Ten. It is ridiculously strong. I think that, given that particular weight class, the top eight guys could all beat each other on a given day. In this way, the seeding probably won't matter as much because you're going to have to have a heck of a weekend, no matter what. In my mind, Mike is the only guy to have beaten Adam Coon (Michigan), and there is a round robin all the way around. I think he'll be seeded well, but I don't think it probably matters too much whether you're seeded first, second, or fourth, you're going to have to win those critical matches anyway."

On senior heavyweight Mike McClure's mindset...
"His confidence is high and we have been spending quite a bit of time on looking back at matches where he has struggled and asking, `What happened here? Why did it happen? Let's try to address these particular situations so if they show up again or if he runs into the same guy they he is not going to make the same mistake.' He does not have many losses - he lost a couple times to the kid from Indiana (No. 2 seed Adam Chalfant) - and that kid has been probably his toughest opponent in terms of just giving him fits. We have looked at his losses and said, `let's work on the details here and see if we can't correct some of the things.' Part of the problem at heavyweight, because the competition is tough, is that everybody is really, really good. It's a situation where Mike's going to have a really strong weekend and I'm confident he will. He's wrestling really strong right now."

On other wrestlers who have been to the Big Ten Championships before...
"That experience is huge. You can talk all you want about what it's like, but until you have actually been there, until you have been called to the center mat and have to face somebody who is the returning national champ or returning All-American, until you have been in that arena, in that environment, it is very, very hard to just understand what it's like. Having been there, having had that experience, is just absolutely priceless. Now you know what it feels like, you know what it sounds like, you know what it's like to be waiting in the wings until you are up. And also you need to know what it is like to face the top wrestlers in the country. That experience I think is huge and I think that it will be good for or entire team. Those guys who have been there before have a huge leg up and I have a feeling that they will continue to improve."

On junior Nick McDiarmid's chance for qualifying for the national championships...
"Nick has had a really strong season and he has had some matches that have gotten away from him. But he has continued to improve, and he is wrestling really, really well. Nick has got a lot of talent, but I think there's no question that he belongs in the NCAA field, but he will have an opportunity to prove it."

On preparing some younger wrestlers for their first Big Ten Championships...
"I think that (red-shirt freshman 133-pounder) Garth Yenter in particular has made just enormous progress. If you go back and look at his film from earlier in the season, he was not anywhere near the wrestler that he is now. He has made great strides and his confidence is through the roof right now. His big win at Central Michigan (over No. 11 Joe Roth) was just another step in the right direction. He is wrestling really, really well, better than I think anybody imagined he would.

"I think with (sophomore 157-pounder Roger) Wildmo and the other guys that have the potential to get in, if you are young and if you haven't been there before, I think you have to understand that it's an opportunity and you don't want to waste it, because it doesn't come around again for a long time. It's a long time to wait to get another chance. Our message to them is `you only have a few chances to go in your college career, and don't waste them.'"

Nine of MSU's 18 duals this season came against opponents currently ranked in the NWCA/USA TODAY Top 25, including four in the top 10 (No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Michigan). The Spartans also wrestled No. 11 Ohio State, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 17 Oregon State, No. 20 Illinois and No. 25 Central Michigan.

Senior Mike McClure is in his third year as a starter at heavyweight for the Spartans. The Holland, Mich., native earned his first trip to the NCAA Championships last season as a junior and is looking to return to the national stage this March to earn All-America honors. McClure, who owns a career record of 95-27, ranks tied for 19th in MSU history in wins. He also ranks tied for 10th in the school record book with 22 falls.

Ranked seventh by InterMat, McClure has collected a 23-5 overall record this season, including a 14-4 mark in dual meets (5-3 Big Ten). He's also the team leader with eight falls. McClure is 3-4 against ranked opponents, with victories over No. 1 Adam Coon (Michigan), No. 6 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) and No. 18 William Smith (Rutgers) and losses to No. 4 Adam Chalfant (Indiana) [twice], No. 4 Bobby Telford (Iowa) and No. 2 Tony Nelson (Minnesota).

McClure went 9-1 in open tournaments 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.

Three-year starter Nick McDiarmid has collected a career-high 10 dual wins this season at 197 pounds. The junior from Fowlerville, Mich., went 10-5 in duals this season and 17-8 overall. He placed runner-up at the Cradle Gear Invitational and fifth at the MSU Open. McDiarmid also owns wins over two ranked opponents in duals this season (No. 14 Brandon Palik of Drexel; No. 15 Nick Whitenburg of Eastern Michigan). For his career, McDiarmid is 55-30. This marks the second Big Ten Championships appearance for McDiarmid (0-2 in 2012).

Junior John Rizqallah ranked second on the team with 11 dual wins and has produced an 18-8 overall record this season at 184 pounds. Rizqallah entered the national rankings in January after going 4-0 and taking first place at the Cradle Gear Invitational on Dec. 29 in Lock Haven, Pa.

Rizqallah is 2-4 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 53-27 career record.

Michigan State closed the regular season on a three-match winning streak after defeating No. 25 Central Michigan, 18-14, Feb. 22 at McGuirk Arena. Seventh-ranked heavyweight Mike McClure led the way for the Spartans by pinning Adam Robinson in 2:49; MSU also claimed victories at 133, 165, 184 and 197 pounds.

CMU (10-10) claimed the first two matches of the dual, which started at 149 pounds. Scott Mattingly topped Nick Trimble, 6-3, while No. 20 Luke Smith edged Roger Wildmo in the 157-pound bout, 5-3.

Bobby Nash got the Spartans (8-10) on the board with a 5-1 decision at 165 over Nick Becker, but the Chippewas extended their lead to 9-3 after eighth-ranked 174-pounder Mike Ottinger came away with a 4-3 overtime victory against Nick Kaczanowski in the first tiebreaker.

The Spartans then rattled off three consecutive wins to take control of the dual. John Rizqallah got things going in the 184-pound match with a 4-0 shutout over Craig Kelliher, followed by a 4-2 decision by Nick McDiarmid over Jackson Lewis at 197 pounds as MSU tied it at 9.

The difference in the dual was at heavyweight, as McClure recorded his team-leading eighth fall of the season to give the Spartans six points and a 15-9 lead with three matches remaining. For McClure, it marked his 22nd career fall, which moved him into a tie with Merle Jennings and David Morgan for 10th most in MSU history. It also was the 95th victory of McClure's career, placing him into a tie for 19th on the all-time Spartan wins chart.

CMU trimmed its deficit to 15-12 with Corey Keeners' 7-3 decision over Brenan Lyon at 125 pounds. The Spartans, however, bounced back and clinched the dual in the 133-pound match as Garth Yenter upset No. 11 Joe Roth, 8-4. Although Yenter gave up a first-period takedown, he responded in the second period with an escape, takedown and three near-fall points. He added another takedown in the third to record the 8-4 win. The Chippewas were then deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct after the bout, giving MSU an 18-11 lead to seal the victory.