There didn’t appear to be too many long faces after Sunday’s Big Ten championships were over.
Yes, Michigan pulled off a surprise by beating Penn State and Iowa for the team championship, but many PSU wrestlers and head coach Cael Sanderson have been focusing on the main goal being the NCAA tournament.
Penn State 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young just won his second Big Ten title in as many seasons Sunday. But even he openly discussed this past week about the Big Ten title not being the endgame. He had his eyes set on Detroit in two weeks as he tries to repeat as national champion.
There was understandably a little bit of disappointment that 141-pounder Nick Lee didn’t get a chance to wrestle Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman, and that was expressed in Lee’s Big Ten Network interview. Eierman chose to medically forfeit due to knee issues. Even with that disappointment, focus was immediately shifted to nationals in two weeks.
PSU 174-pounder Carter Starocci captured his first Big Ten team title, as did 197-pounder Max Dean in his first season with the Nittany Lions. Starocci would have faced Iowa’s Michael Kemerer in Saturday’s semifinals in a rematch of last season’s national finals, but Kemerer medically forfeited the match.
With as many medical forfeits as fans saw in this season’s Big Tens, it has to make you wonder: have the Big Ten wrestling championships lost a little bit of luster over the years?
Any wrestler will tell you the old cliche that the postseason is the reason for the season. That’s true no matter what level a wrestler is at. But are the Big Tens worth it when the much greater prize is waiting for college wrestlers two weeks away?
With Iowa all but out of the team race early in the finals, the Hawkeyes medically forfeited two bouts – once at 141 with Eierman forfeiting to Lee, and again at 285 pounds as Tony Cassioppi elected not to wrestle Minnesota phenom Gable Steveson.
Even Big Ten Network analyst Jordan Burroughs, a two-time national champion at Nebraska, said on the telecast that he had never seen so many medical forfeits in a tournament as he did this weekend.
I’m sure if you ask any Penn State wrestler on Monday about Big Tens, they would say their attention has shifted to the NCAA Championships.
Sanderson said this past week all of the training that his team does is in preparation for NCAAs, but it was also important to wrestle well at the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan wrestled well this weekend, and certainly deserved to win the team title over Penn State. Will that be the case in Detroit in two weeks?
Big Ten Network asked 174-pounder Carter Starocci about that after he won his championship with the team title still in doubt. He didn’t mince words.
“We’re not neck and neck with Michigan,” said Starocci. “We’re a lot better than Michigan.”
Your show, Nittany Lions.