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SPO t cfttgan katg
MARCH 15, 2001
47 31 I-
WRESTLING IOWA CITY, IOWA
No. 3 Michigan
fights for respect
By Nathan Unsloy
Daily Sports Writer
The wrestling NCAA Championships begins today in Iowa
City, and despite the emergence to national prominence of pro-
grams such as Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State, it appears that
--thlsournament will still have familiar names at the top.
"I see three teams with a distinct advantage - Minnesota,
Iowa and Oklahoma State, but not necessarily in that order,"
Oklahoma coach Jack Spates said at the tournament press con-
ference. "We are hoping for a six-team race."
Like the Sooners, Michigan will be looking to pull some
upsets and take advantage of a field that could be wide-
nth Minnesota and Oklahoma State, the top two teams in
the nation, are balanced squads that will rely on top-eight fin-
ishes from a number of their wrestlers. Iowa, on the other hand,
isteam made for non-dual tournaments - a few superstars,
ad a few wrestlers capable of moving up from middle-of-the-
Michigan, like Minnesota and Oklahoma State, will need a
superb performance from its star, second-seeded Otto Olson at
But Olson will have a difficult road to the finals. In his third
match, he is slated to face either seventh-seeded Eric Hall of
Virginia Tech or tenth-seeded Jacob Volkmann of Minnesota,
two wrestlers he narrowly defeated this season.
Seven of the eight Wolverines who will compete are seeded
in the top-12, though only three - Olson, 184-pounder Andy
Hrovat and heavyweight Matt Brink - are projected to be All-
The only unseeded Wolverine is 157-pound freshman Pat
Owen, who qualified with a seventh-place finish two weeks
ago at the Big Ten Championships. Owen will face tenth-seed-
edRocky Smart of Arizona State in the first round.
Regardless of how Owen finishes, coach Joe McFarland
knows that the experience he obtains this weekend will be
extremely valuable in the years to come.
"It will be great to get him there, and for him to feel what the
national tournament is like. There's no pressure on him, so he
HE CHWARTZ AUTHORITY
Matzka a leaderi.
The season is on the line as the Michigan wrestlers tussle with the nation's best at the NCAA Championships.
can just get there and wrestle as hard as he can," McFarland
said. "Hopefully some good things will happen for him, and
he'll sneak in there and place."
Freshmen Foley Dowd and Clark Forward are both alter-
nates for nationals after finishing eighth at the Big Ten tourna-
"They've been a big part of the success we've had this year,"
McFarland said. "But they'll be right back in it next season, I
Senior 197-pounder Joe DeGain will conclude his Michigan
career this weekend. In his first national tournament, he is slat-
ed to meet Minnesota's Owen Elzen in the second round. Elzen
defeated DeGain by technical fall in the third-place match at
A key weight class for the Wolverines will be 125 pounds,
where sophomore A.J. Grant is seeded tenth. Grant is expect-
ed to face archrival Chris Williams of Michigan State in the
second round. If he is victorious, he will probably face Iowa's
Jody Strittmatter, who has defeated Grant four times this sea-
The Wolverines will need strong performances from
DeGain, Grant and 149-pounder Mike Kulczycki if they hope
to finish in the top five of the team standings.
All three wrestlers got on a bit of a roll at the Big Ten tour-
nament, which Minnesota coach J Robinson thinks is a big part
of having success at nationals.
"At the national tournament, you throw out what you've
done," Robinson said. "It all depends on who gets hot."
The Wolverines have had trouble in non-dual tourna-
ments this season, showing an inability to maintain, or
move up from their seeds. If they are to have success in
Iowa City, every wrestler will have to place higher than
he is supposed to.
Wrestler, Weight Record Rank Seed
A.J. Grant, 125 28-12 12 10
Mike Kulczycki, 149 35-10 10 11
Pat Owen, 157 17-13 - -
Charles Martelli, 165 33-12 10 10
Otto Olson, 174 32-2 2 2
Andy Hrovat, 184 33-7 8 7
Joe DeGain, 197 26-13 17 12
Matt Brink, Hwt. 30-6 6 5
J s a situation that's sad, no matter how you look at
it. Michigan senior Scott Matzka, once an assistant
captain on the hockey team, now wears his uniform
with a conspicuous absence around the left shoulder.
The "A" that he so proudly wore for the entire regi
season is gone for the playoff stretch.
Of course, Matzka would be the first to admit that
coach Red Berenson's decision to strip him of the cap-
taincy was legitimate. Matzka, in the final game of the
regular season - against Michigan State at Munn Ice
Arena - completely lost control of his emotions after
referee Steve Piotrowski whistled him' for holding three
minutes into the third period.
Matzka was given a 10-minute misconduct, and when
the Spartans scored on the ensuing powerplay and
Piotrowski went to report the goal, Matzka made some
sort of gesture in his direction, prompting the official
to give him a game misconduct.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to
Matzka's issue: The first says that it is the job of tlie&
captains to defend teammates, an example being when
officials are treating a team unfairly. Out the othcr says
that the captains need to set an example for the team to
Either way, it's too bad that the situation reached this
Matzka is a talented hockey player, a strong emotidn-1
al presence in the lockerroom and a highly capable sto
dent. Majoring in computer science, the senior probably
extends more time to his coursework than any of the
team's other key players.
But since the incident, what has shined brighter than
Matzka the hockey player or Matzka the student has
been Matzka the leader. He has been the ultimate in
accountability ever since he left the Munn ice to the
shouts of the Spartans fans.
"It's disappointing the way I acted," Matzka said after
last Friday night's victory over Ferris State in the first
round of the CCHA playoffs." I'm apologetic to my
teammates and fans for having to see the way I acted.
That night in East Lansing, Matzka acknowledged
that he wanted to apologize to Piotrowski, who many
consider to be the finest referee in the CCHA. He reit -
erated those thoughts on Friday.
"I still think he's a great ref," he said.
Berenson made it clear that his decision is not
intended to embarrass Matzka. He simply felt that his
conduct did not appear fitting of an assistant captain.
And he was probably right about that.
But credit the entire team for standing behind
Matzka. Credit both Berenson and Matzka for not try
ing to hide the issue and, instead, bringing it to the
forefront. Other teams at Michigan might have handled
the issue by throwing around "no comments" until
everyone was bored to death with the situation.
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