COLUMBUS, Ohio Junior Reece Humphrey of the sixth-ranked Ohio State wrestling team will seek his first Big Ten title after winning three-consecutive matches at 133 pounds on the first day of the 2009 Big Ten Championships at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Humphrey, a fifth seed, will face No. 2 Franklin Gomez of Michigan State in the final.
The Buckeyes currently are in ninth place with 58 points. Iowa leads the field with 110 points, while Illinois (85) rounds out the Top 3.
Day two action of the Big Ten championships will begin at noon Sunday with wrestleback matchups. The Big Ten Network will present a live broadcast of the finals at 2 p.m.
Humphrey was the lone Buckeye to wrestle his way into the finals Sunday afternoon following three consecutive wins, including two over higher seeded wrestlers. The Buckeye junior from Indianapolis, Ind., began the day with a pin, downing Northwestern’s Eric Metzler in 6:21. Humphrey then was face to face against fourth seed Jayson Ness of Minnesota in the quarterfinals and handed the Gopher an 11-4 loss. Heading into session two against No. 1 Daniel Dennis of Iowa with a berth into the finals on the line, Humphrey downed the Hawkeye, 5-2, for his first-career appearance in a Big Ten championship final.
Humphrey will face second-seed Franklin Gomez of Michigan State. The two Big Ten wrestlers have a long history and most recently in collegiate competition, the two met in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Championships in St. Louis. Humphrey nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the championships when he rallied from a 3-0 deficit after the second period to take a 4-3 advantage with less than a minute left in the match against the No. 1-seeded Gomez. As the seconds ticked off the clock, Gomez recorded an escape to tie the score and send the bout into overtime. Neither wrestler was able to score in three sudden victory periods and four tiebreakers. However, in the fifth tiebreaker, Gomez tallied a crucial escape, but his advantage did not last long as Humphrey countered with an escape of his own in the sixth tiebreaker. It was to no avail though as Gomez owned four seconds of riding time and it was enough for him to win 5-4 and avoid the upset.
Two Buckeyes in Colt Sponseller (165) and Mike Pucillo (184) advanced to the semifinal round, but lost their respective matches as No. 2 seeds.
Sponseller, dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision in two tiebreakers to third-seed Ryan Morningstar of Iowa. Prior to the loss, the Buckeye from Glenmont, Ohio, defeated No. 7 Paul Young of Indiana, 10-4. Sponseller will now face Illinois’ and seventh-seed Roger Smith-Bergsrud in session three.
Defending Big Ten champion, Pucillo also encountered an Iowa Hawkeye in No. 3 Phil Keddy and lost, 5-2, in a tiebreaker. In his attempt to repeat as Big Ten champion, Pucillo defeated No. 7 Nick Palmieri of Michigan State by pinning him in 1:21. The loss snaps Pucillo’s 44-match win streak dating back to the Buckeyes’ match vs. Wisconsin Dec. 10, 2007. Pucillo, now 17-1 this season, will look to rebound against Eric Cameron of Indiana.
Senior J Jaggers will vie for a third-place finish at 141 pounds for the second-consecutive year after losing his semifinal match to Zach Tanelli of Wisconsin, 3-1. The Northfield, Ohio, native and fifth seed won his first two bouts by a combined score of 17-4, including a 12-3 quarterfinal win over fourth-seed Michael Thorn of Minnesota. The Buckeye opened his final conference championship with a 5-1 decision against Collin Dozier of Michigan State. Jaggers will meet Northwestern’s and sixth seed Keith Sulzer Sunday.
Teammate Lance Palmer also will seek out a third-place finish at 149 pounds. A third seed, Palmer was upset in the quarterfinals by No. 6 Andrew Nadhir of Northwestern, 9-8, in the first tiebreaker. However, the Columbia Station, Ohio, native won his next two matches by shutting out both his opponents. He first kept Minnesota’s Joseph Grygelko off the board, while he scored five points. Palmer then blanked David Cheza of Michigan State, 6-0. The Buckeye next will face No. 4 Kyle Ruschell of Wisconsin.
Dave Rella is the third and final Buckeye who will look to finish in the Top 3 Sunday at 174 pounds. Suffering a quarterfinal loss to No. 5 John Dergo of Illinois, Rella, a fifth seed, won two straight matches in the wrestlebacks. The Akron, Ohio, native first beat Nicholas Corpe of Purdue, 3-1, in sudden victory before downing Michigan State’s and eighth-seed Ian Hinton, 4-2. Up next for Rella is No. 2 Jay Borschel of Iowa.
Four Buckeyes in Nikko Triggas (125), Jason Johnstone (157), Cody Gardner (197) and Corey Morrison (285) bowed out of competition Saturday evening after consecutive losses.
2009 Big Ten Championships
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, Pa.
1. 110.0 Iowa
2. 85.0 Illinois
3. 83.0 Wisconsin
4. 77.5 Michigan
5. 71.5 Penn State
6. 69.5 Northwestern
7. 64.5 Minnesota
8. 59.5 Indiana
9. 58.0 Ohio State
10. 41.0 Purdue
11. 36.5 Michigan State
125 No. 6 Nikko Triggas
First Round: Matt Fields Purdue dec. Nikko Triggas, 8-3
Wrestleback: No. 5 Zach Sanders (Minnesota) mdec. Nikko Triggas, 10-2
133 No. 5 Reece Humphrey
First Round: Reece Humphrey pinned Eric Metzler (Northwestern), 6:21
Quarterfinals: Reece Humphrey dec. No. 4 Jayson Ness (Minnesota), 11-4
Semifinals: Reece Humphrey dec. No. 1 Daniel Dennis (Iowa), 5-2
141 No. 5 J Jaggers
First Round: J Jaggers dec. Collin Dozier (Michigan State), 5-1
Quarterfinals: J Jaggers mdec. No. 4 Michael Thorn (Minnesota), 12-3
Semifinals: Zach Tanelli (Wisconsin) dec. J Jaggers, 3-1
149 No. 3 Lance Palmer
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: No. 6 Andrew Nadhir (Northwestern) dec. Lance Palmer, 9-6 TB1
Wrestleback: Lance Palmer dec. Joseph Grygelko (Minnesota), 5-0
Wrestleback: Lance Palmer dec. David Cheza (Michigan State), 6-0
157 No. 5 Jason Johnstone
First Round: Colton Salazar (Purdue) dec. Jason Johnstone, 12-10
Wrestleback: No. 6 Aaron Hynes dec. Jason Johnstone, 5-4
165 No. 2 Colt Sponseller
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: Colt Sponseller dec. No. 7 Paul Young (Indiana), 10-4
Semifinals: No. 3 Ryan Morningstar (Iowa) dec. Colt Sponseller, 2-1 TB2
174 No. 4 Dave Rella
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: No. 5 John Dergo (Illinois) dec. Dave Rella, 3-2
Wrestleback: Dave Rella dec. Nicholas Corpe (Purdue), 3-1, SV1
Wrestleback: Dave Rella dec. No. 8 Ian Hinton (Michigan State), 4-2
184 No. 2 Mike Pucillo
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: Mike Pucillo pinned No. 7 Nick Palmieri (Michigan State), 1:21
Semifinals: No. 3 Phil Keddy (Iowa) dec. Mike Pucillo, 5-2 TB1
197 Cody Gardner
First Round: No. 7 Logan Brown (Purdue) dec. Cody Gardner, 11-3
Wrestleback: No. 8 John Schoen(Northwestern) dec. Cody Gardner, 2-1
285 No. 6 Corey Morrison
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Kyle Massey (Wisconsin) dec. Corey Morrison, 6-0
Wrestleback: Cameron Wade (Penn State) dec. Corey Morrison, 14-8