Nov. 10, 2009
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue junior Colton Salazar was named the Big Ten Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday after winning the 157-pound Eastern Michigan Open last weekend. He opened his season with five straight victories, including wins over two highly-ranked opponents.
Salazar's 5-0 run started with a 19-8 major decision over Thomas Rispoli of Brockport State, followed up with a 6-0 blanking of Illinois' Dan Stelter. Salazar then edged out Lindenwood's Jake Johnson in the quarterfinals, 3-2, earning a matchup with seventh-ranked returning All-American Bryce Saddoris of Navy. The semifinal bout was tied 1-1 after seven minutes as the pair traded escapes, and the match appeared to be headed to a tie-breaker. However, Salazar scored a takedown in the final seconds of the sudden victory frame for the 3-1 win, and his first victory of the season over a ranked foe. His championship matchup with Indiana's 12th-ranked Kurt Kinser was their fourth contest in the last year, and Salazar came away with his third straight victory over his Hoosier rival, taking a 7-5 sudden victory win.
"Colton is very deserving of this honor after a great start on Saturday," said Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel. "He showed a lot of heart, discipline and talent in the semifinals and finals, facing two outstanding opponents and defeating them both."
Salazar becomes the second straight Boilermaker to earn the first weekly conference honor of the season, following sophomore Jake Fleckenstein who earned the honor in 2008 after winning the same tournament at 133 pounds. It is the first Big Ten weekly award of Salazar's career, and the first for the team since Fleckenstein's award last season.
Heading into his third season of collegiate wrestling, Salazar is still building back to form after missing two years on a religious mission in Japan. He qualified for the NCAA Championships as a true freshman in 2005, placing sixth at the Big Ten Championships. After returning from Japan and a redshirt season, he returned to the national tournament in 2009, earning fourth place and an automatic qualifier at the conference championships. His No. 11 ranking is the first preseason national recognition of his career as he looks to hold that spot through the season.
"It's been a long, but great road back for Colton," continued Hinkel. "He's put in a lot of hard work and hours in the room, building himself back up and returning to the form he knows he can be at. We're all excited for a great season for him."
Salazar and his Boilermaker teammates return to action on Saturday at the Northwestern Duals, where they'll face Stanford, Northern Iowa and the host Wildcats. Their scheduled bout with Northwestern is the first Big Ten dual of the season for the conference and one of the earliest Big Ten duals for the Boilermakers in school history.