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April 30, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 10 Ohio State men’s tennis team beat No. 6 Illinois 4-2 Sunday in the championship match of the 2006 Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Buckeyes ended the Illini’s stranglehold on the title by handing them their first loss in the conference tournament since the Buckeyes beat the Illini in the 2001 Big Ten Tournament final.

Illinois had won the previous four Big Ten tournaments before the Buckeyes won Sunday. OSU added the Big Ten tournament title to go along with its regular-season championship earned by going 10-0 in conference play.

It is the second time Ohio State (25-1) defeated Illinois (22-6) this season. The first was April 2 in Columbus when OSU downed the then No. 5-ranked Illini, 5-2. The Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team to beat the Illini since 1997. OSU has beaten Illinois three times in that span, twice this season.

Ty Tucker, the 2006 Big Ten Coach of the Year, improved his Big Ten tournament record to 11-5. Tucker guided the Buckeyes to the 2001 tournament title and has made the final each of the last three seasons.

For the first time this season, the Buckeyes failed to earn the doubles point. OSU seniors Ross Wilson (Toledo, Ohio/Toledo St. Francis de Sales) and 2006 Big Ten Sportsmanship Honoree Scott Green (North Canton, Ohio/Hoover), the nation’s No. 1-ranked doubles team, lost their second dual match of the year. The pair was beaten by Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe, the nation’s No. 4-ranked doubles team, 8-4 at the No. 1 doubles spot. Green and Wilson are 29-3 and 23-2 in dual competition this season.

The Buckeyes were forced to win the match by taking four of the six singles points. Bryan Koniecko (Long Island, N.Y./Syosset), the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, won his match against No. 9 Ryler DeHeart, the 2006 Big Ten Player of the Year, 7-6 (4), 6-1 at the No. 1 singles spot. OSU clinched the match when Wilson won his match against Ruben Gonzalez 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 at the No. 6 singles spot. Head coach Ty Tucker was ecstatic to win the tournament.

“I can’t even put into words how happy I am right now,” Tucker said. “Some people were saying Illinois was the better team and we only beat them outside. A lot of people think they are the best indoor team in the country. I think we showed we are the better team and validated our regular-season title.”

Tucker was extremely pleased Wilson, the senior, clinched the match for Buckeyes.

“To have a guy from Ohio, who was down 5-4 in the third set come back and clinch the match for us was unreal,” Tucker said.

Tucker also was full of praise for his star freshman.

“When we recruited Bryan (Koniecko) we knew he was one of the Top 5 players coming into college tennis,” Tucker said. “What he did today was amazing. To beat the reigning Big Ten player of the year at the No. 1 spot in straight sets was unbelievable. I think he has a great shot to win national freshman of the year.”

Koniecko hopes every year in college is as successful as this one.

“I am so happy to win two titles in my first season here,” Koniecko said. “I owe so much to my teammates who have helped me through this season. The seniors have been great and I have learned a lot from them, and hope we can win a lot more championships in my time here.”

Ohio State, with the Big Ten’s automatic bid, now awaits the NCAA Tournament Selection Show Wednesday. The pairings will be made public at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNews.

NCAA First and Second rounds will be contested on campus sites May 12-14.

Ohio State 4, Illinois 2
Singles
1. #40 Bryan Koniecko (OSU/23-12) def. #9 Ryler DeHeart (ILL) 7-6 (4), 6-1
2. #23 Kevin Anderson (ILL) def. #99 Chris Klingemann (OSU/22-7) 7-6 (4), 6-0
3. #87 GD Jones (ILL) vs. #118 Devin Mullings (OSU) 6-2, 4-6, 2-2, abd.
4. #103 Steven Moneke (OSU/19-6) def. #71 Ryan Rowe (ILL) 7-6 (4), 7-5
5. Dennis Mertens (OSU/27-6) def. Marc Spicijaric (ILL) 6-3, 6-0
6. Ross Wilson (OSU/22-6) def. Ruben Gonzales (ILL) 6-4, 3-6, 7-5
Order of finish: 1,5,2,4,6
 
Doubles
1. #4 Anderson/Rowe (ILL) def. #1 Scott Green/Wilson (OSU/29-3) 8-4
2. Eberly/Koniecko (OSU) led #17 Pramod Dabir/DeHeart (ILL) 7-6, abd.
3. Gonzales/Jones (ILL) def. Klingemann/Mullings (OSU/21-3) 8-4
Order of finish: 1,3