March 9, 2014
MADISON, Wis. - Purdue had four individuals earn a podium finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships Sunday in the Kohl Center. Fourth-seeded Cashé Quiroga led the way by placing third at 133 pounds, defeating third-seeded David Thorn of Minnesota. Braden Atwood, the fourth seed at 197, placed sixth, while Camden Eppert and Danny Sabatello placed eighth at 125 and 141 pounds, respectively. Quiroga and Atwood earned automatic bids to the NCAA Wrestling Championships March 20-22 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The Boilermakers placed 11th overall with 34.5 points. Penn State captured its fourth straight title with 140.5 points, followed by Iowa (135 points), Minnesota (118.5 points), Ohio State (86.5 points) and Nebraska (79 points) to round out the top-five teams.
"Obviously it's disappointing, regardless of the team placing, we want to get as many guys to nationals as we can," head wrestling coach Scott Hinkel said. "That part was disappointing too. We've got an outside shot of getting two more [at-large qualifiers]. We want more guys with us, but if Cashé [Quiroga] and Braden [Atwood] can go down there and do some damage, we can still have a good team finish."
In the third-place match at 133, Quiroga notched a 6-3 decision over third-seeded David Thorn of Minnesota. The redshirt senior faked and came right back with a shot, taking Thorn down at the 1:07 mark in the first period. An escape by the Gopher made it 2-1 as the opening three minutes of action came to a close. Thorn evened the score at 2-2 with an escape to start the second. Neither wrestler was able to find their shot, spending the remaining time in the period with heavy hand fighting.
Quiroga took a 3-2 advantage with an escape in the third. He then found his shot, getting in deep on Thorn and taking him down for a second time in the match. Thorn, who was seeded third, escaped with 1:04 left on the clock. Strong defense by Quiroga, plus 1:31 worth of riding time, secured the victory.
"He [Quiroga] stepped up this weekend," HInkel said. "He wrestled above his seed and I think that was a real confidence booster for him. He showed that he can get a lot of placement points. He's clicking at the right time and he's going to have good momentum going into NCAAs."
The Boilermaker placed for a third time at the Big Ten Championships and his third-place finish is his best showing after taking sixth at 125 pounds as freshman in 2010 and fifth at 133 in 2012.
"In the semifinals Saturday, he had [Tony] Ramos [of Iowa] beat for most of the match," Hinkel said. "Ramos beat Cashé pretty handily at Midlands, but two months has done a lot of good for us. Cashé had him on the ropes and let it slip away. Even though it was a loss, Cashé knows that he can beat anybody and we saw his scoring potential. He's in a stacked weight class with only eight going from the Big Ten."
In the consolation semifinals, Quiroga used a first-period takedown, plus a reversal and a second takedown in the final period to post a 6-3 decision over No. 6 Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State. He did not surrender a takedown as he defeated the Buckeye for a second time this season.
With eight takedowns at the Big Ten Championships, Quirgoa pushed his career total to 375, which ranks fourth on Purdue's all-time list. The Indianapolis, Ind., native will take a 16-6 record into his third NCAA Wrestling Championship's appearance and will be eyeing a second All-America honor. As a true freshman, he captured sixth-place honors at 125 pounds.
At 197 pounds, Atwood got on the board first in his fifth-place battle against fifth-seeded Nathan Burak of Iowa with an escape to start the second period, but it was the Hawkeyes' late reversal that won him the match, 2-1. The opening three minutes of action were scoreless, with Atwood on the offensive taking multiple shots, but each one went to a stalemate. Burak's reversal came with a minute left in the bout and he rode out the Purdue redshirt junior.
"Braden and [Nathan] Burak [of Iowa] are real close," Hinkel said. "He [Atwood] opened up with offense against Burak. He knows that he has more weapons that just defending, defending, defending and then riding someone out."
Earlier in the consolation semifinals, third-seeded Scott Schiller of Minnesota defeated Atwood, 8-2. The Delphi, Ind., native's record slipped to 25-10 with the two losses Sunday. His sixth-place finish is his best yet after finishing seventh at 184 as a redshirt freshman and eighth at 197 last season. He earned his third trip to the NCAA Championships in as many seasons with a top-eight finish.
"Even though he [Atwood] had those losses, I think it was still a confidence booster for him," Hinkel said. "He needs to make sure he finishes his shots. I think he improved because he wrestled those guys [Burak and Schiller] better. We're making strides."
Strong riding by Michigan's fifth-seeded Conor Youtsey in the third period proved to be the difference maker as the Wolverine accumulated 1:51 riding time for a 2-1 decision over No. 7-seed Camden Eppert in the seventh-place match at 125 pounds. The two wrestlers exchanged escapes in the second and third periods. Eppert, now 16-14, places eighth for the second consecutive season.
Wrestling for seventh at 141, eighth-seeded Jesse Thielke of Wisconsin stunned Purdue's sixth-seeded Danny Sabatello, dealing the redshirt sophomore an 18-6 major decision loss. The Badger notched a trio of first-period takedowns and scored a three-point nearfall on two occasions to build a 12-2 lead after three minutes. Sabatello was able to notch a takedown of his own late in the third period, but the deficit was too much to overcome. The redshirt sophomore's record now stands at 22-12.
In the ninth-place match 157, redshirt freshman Alex Griffin, who was seeded ninth, was forced to injury default midway through the first period after a takedown by No. 11-seed Randall Languis Ohio State. Ninth-seeded Boilermaker Pat Robinson suffered a 7-3 setback to 11th-seeded Bobby Nash of Michigan State in the 165-pound ninth-place match.
On Wednesday the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will announce the 40 at-large qualifiers for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. 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.
"NCAAs, it's a new weekend, it's a new life going there," Hinkel said. "Cashé and Atwood have been there before; they know what it's about. Now the next step is getting those guys on the podium. We'll go back and work on the little things, but like we've said all season, they need to wrestle aggressive and smart, that's the bottom line."
For complete match-by-match results from the Big Ten Wrestling Championships, final brackets and more, please click here.