March 9, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio– Ohio State wrestlers Nick Heflin and Logan Stieber joined elite Buckeye company Sunday afternoon after winning Big Ten championships in their respective weight classes at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Heflin, a senior 197-pounder from Massillon, Ohio, captured his first conference title and Stieber, a redshirt-junior 141-pounder from Monroeville, Ohio, became just the second Buckeye to win three league championships. Stieber joins Kevin Randleman (1991-93) in that category.
Heflin and Stieber now have automatically qualified for the 2014 NCAA Championships which will take place March 20-22 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Penn State won the team title with 140.5 points. Iowa was second, accruing 134 points, while Minnesota rounded out the Top 3 with 114.5 points.
Sunday afternoon, Stieber, the No. 2 seed, answered his 4-3 sudden victory setback in December vs. Penn State’s and No. 1 seed Zain Retherford with a 7-3 victory in the Big Ten 141-pound title match. Stieber, who is the 2012 and 2013 league champion at 133 pounds, has won16 consecutive matches since his loss to Retherford. The 7-3 victory also served as Stieber’s first regular decision win all season. With a 25-1 record, 24 of Stieber’s wins have been bonus-point victories.
Heflin, who was the 2011 Big Ten runner-up at 174 pounds, earned his 2014 title following a dramatic 5-3 sudden victory vs. No. 1 seed Morgan McIntosh of Penn State. The No. 2 seed, Heflin scored a takedown in the second sudden victory with two seconds remaining. With his 3-0 mark at the Big Ten championships, Heflin recorded his 24th win of the season (24-4) and 95th victory of his career. Since a 3-1 sudden victory loss to Wisconsin’s Tim McCall Jan. 10, Heflin has won 14 consecutive matches.
In addition to Heflin and Stieber, a contingent of other Buckeyes automatically qualified for the NCAA championships following their performances Sunday. Redshirt-sophomore and sixth-seed Kenny Courts finished fifth in the 184-pound bracket. Redshirt-freshman 125-pounder Nick Roberts and redshirt-sophomore 133-pounder Johnni DiJulius were sixth-place finishers. With his seventh-place finish, sophomore 174-pounder Mark Martin earned an automatic spot, as did redshirt-freshman and heavyweight Nick Tavanello with his eighth-place finish.
After dropping his match to Michigan’s and fifth seed Domenic Abounader, 7-0, in wrestlebacks, Courts answered with a 16-6 major decision victory over Illinois’ and No. 8 seed Nikko Reyes in the fifth-place bout.
Although Roberts and DiJulius finished in the Top 6, the duo did drop back-to-back matches Sunday. Roberts did finish above his seeding as he was the eighth seed. In his opening match Sunday, Roberts dropped a close 3-1sv match to No. 3 seed Cory Clark of Iowa. Roberts then fell to sixth seed Tim Lambert of Nebraska in 4:24.
DiJulius placed according to his seeding as a sixth seed. In the opening session of day two of the Big Ten championships, DiJulius lost, 6-3, to Purdue’s and fourth seed Cashe Quiroga. Following his initial loss, DiJulius dropped a 10-4 decision to Illinois’s Zane Richards, a fifth seed.
Martin, a sixth seed, wrestled once Sunday, in the seventh-place bout, and was a 6-2 victor over Michigan’s and No. 8 seed Collin Zeerip.
In his first Big Ten championship, Tavanello fell to No. 7 seed Conor Medbery of Wisconsin in his lone match of the day, but his eighth place still secured the Buckeye a spot in the NCAA championships.
Although senior 149-pounder Ian Paddock was a seventh-place finisher, the Big Ten was allotted only six places for automatic qualifying. Despite recording a 15-3 major decision victory over Caleb Ervin of Illinois in the seventh-place matchup, Paddock, a sixth seed, will have to wait until Wednesday when he will learn if he will earn a bid to the NCAA championships.