The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 6, 2003 - 11A
" ready for Big Tens
Last chance arrives
for women harriers
By Sharad Mattu
Daily Sports Writer
Last year, the Michigan wrestling
team entered the Big Ten Champi-
onships ranked second in the country
and filled with confidence.
But the Wolverines' efforts through-
out the season had worn them down,
as they finished a disappointing third
at Big Tens and ninth at
This season, Michi- W
gan coach Joe McFar-
land made sure fatigue
wouldn't be a factor.
McFarland wanted the :N
team to be fresh and
peaking for Big Tens, KhCe__
and the wrestlers feel he
has done just that.
"I think we did everything right this
year," redshirt sophomore Ryan Bertin
said. "Last year we peaked at the
wrong time. But this year our legs are
fresh, and we're ready to go out and
perform great this weekend."
Only Iowa and Minnesota are
ranked ahead of No. 6 Michigan. But
right below Michigan are Ohio State,
Illinois and Michigan State, so the
Wolverines need results from their
A.J. Grant, 28-6 this season, is like-
ly Michigan's best chance at a Big Ten
champion. At 125 pounds, Grant is
seeded second behind Purdue's Chris
Fleeger. Fleeger narrowly beat Grant
2-0 in a dual meet Feb. 22.
At 133 pounds, Shaun Newton will
replace Foley Dowd, who was seeded
third this weekend but is out for the
season with a lingering neck injury.
"That's a tough loss for us," McFar-
land said. "He has been one of the top
guys in the country at that weight
class and one of our most consistent
wrestlers all season.
"I feel bad for Foley; he's really dis-
appointed. He has his sights set on
winning a national championship and
being an All-American."
The 157-pound Ryan Bertin is just
now getting past injuries to his knee
and ankle, and is ready to
break out and wrestle up to
ther "This is the best I've felt
4 ~ all year," Bertin said. "My
foot is back to normal. I
A <7 don't need to tape it up any-
more. It's been bothering me
adn all year, but now I'm over it."
Fifth-year senior Mike
Kulczycki will return to the
lineup at 165 pounds this weekend
after winning a wrestle-off against Pat
Owen. Kulczycki has battled injuries
all season, but a strong finish will
erase the bad memories.
"It's been a real tough year," Kul-
czycki said. "Being injured is never
fun. But I'm ready as I'll ever be, so
I'm just going to block it out and
wrestle the best I can.
"Last year I had a great season, but
it didn't finish well, and that's all that
matters. This year my season didn't go
well, but I still have a chance to sal-
vage the year."
Owen has been on a tear lately, so
McFarland decided to bump him up
to 174 pounds. Owen has gone 4-1
and pinned three highly-ranked oppo-
nents in the last three weeks and has
earned so much respect that he is
seeded eighth this weekend, even
though he hasn't wrestled at 174
The Michigan wrestling team hopes to redeem itself at the Big Ten Championships
this weekend after finishing a disappointing third last year.
By Anne Ulble
Daily Sports Writer
This weekend represents Michi-
gan's last chance to qualify for
NCAA Championships. The time
has come to see which athletes are
really prepared to compete with the
cream of the crop.
Several of Michigan women's
track and field athletes will be
heading off to South Bend, Ind. for
the Alex Wilson Invitational tomor-
row in hopes of qualifying for the
NCAA Indoor Track and Field
Championships the following week-
end in Fayetteville, Ark.
Known as the "last-chance" meet,
the runners, throwers and jumpers
will have one last opportunity to
prove that they are NCAA Champi-
onship material. They each have to
make NCAA qualifying times, dis-
tances and heights in their events
this weekend, or else wait until next
year for another shot.
The invitational will be a non-
scoring event because each team
will only bring those athletes who
have not yet qualified for the NCAA
"We are only going to be bring-
ing seven athletes to the meet this
weekend," said associate head
coach Mike McGuire. "Hopefully
getting some of them tuned up for
the NCAA Championships. Realis-
tically, this meet will only be in the
athletes' best interest to run.
Whether they qualify or not, it will
prepare them for the upcoming out-
The rest of the team not partici-
pating in the meet will get a well-
deserved weekend off to prepare for
the NCAA Championships.
After winning their second con-
secutive the Indoor Big Ten Cham-
pionship last weekend, the
Wolverines were also honored with
numerous awards to go along with
the team title.
Michigan coach James Henry was
named Big Ten Coach of the Year
for the fourth time. In his 19th year
as head coach of the women's track
team, Henry has led Michigan to
nine Big Ten championships and has
also coached more than 70 athletes
to individual and relay titles.
Along with Henry, freshman phe-
nom Katie Erdman was named Big
Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year,
after becoming the first Michigan
freshman runner in history to win an
individual title at the indoor Big Ten
championships. Erdman won the
600-meter run to capture the cham-
pionship title, setting a school
"Everyone was very excited about
the championship title, it was a nice
way to finish up the tough confer-
ence season and get ready for the
next meet," said McGuire
They say things come in sets of
three, and the track and field pro-
gram hopes that's true, as the team
sets out to make Big Ten history
with three championship titles.
After taking first place in the
cross country Big Ten Champi-
onship this past fall and winning the
indoor Big Ten Championship last
weekend, the Wolverines could com-
plete the Big Ten triple crown by
defending the Big Ten title at the
outdoor championships this May.
pounds this season.
"I think the confidence I've gained
over the last three weeks beating
some top-ranked guys will make that
move easier," Owen said. "When
moving up in weight, confidence is a
"My opponents will be bigger and
stronger than I'm used to, but I'm
going to be a lot quicker. My style of
wrestling relies on quickness and
agility, so it may be even more of an
advantage against 174-pounders."
Heavyweight Greg Wagner is yet
another Wolverine returning from an
injury. Wagner, seeded fifth this week-
end, injured his ankle Feb. 9 against
Fifth-year senior Kyle Smith has
been on a roll of late, and hopes to
carry the momentum into the week-
end. Smith struggled mightily early in
the season, but now has returned to his
"If you want to win, you always
have to stay positive," Smith said. "If
you get down in a slump you may
never get out of it. Even when I was
struggling I never doubted myself.
"I hope to win (a Big Ten Champi-
onship) this weekend. Anything less
will be disappointing. I think the end
of the year is what's most important.
At Big Tens, you have to qualify for
Nationals, and that is what everyone
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Michigan freshman Niki Reams works
to control the ball against Minnesota.
Continued from Page 8A
take much better care of the ball
than it did during the teams' first
meeting, when the Fighting Illini
overwhelmed the Wolverines with
their defense and forced 29
turnovers - Michigan's season
high. Illinois is notorious for utiliz-
ing a very high-octane defensive
gameplan that produces many
"They're very athletic," said Gue-
vara. "They like to get up and down
the floor, and they like to press for
Although the talented Fighting
Illini present a formidable opponent
for the Maize and Blue, the most
important aspect of the game for the
youthful Wolverines may be han-
dling the tournament's intimidating
environment. All games will be
played in Conseco Fieldhouse (home
of the NBA's Indiana Pacers), which
boasts an enormous capacity of
"(During the Big Ten Tourna-
ment), there's a bit more electricity
in the air," Guevara said. "It feels
like the NCAA Tournament. The
bands are going, and there are a lot
of people in the stands. It's really a
The, Wolverines currently possess
a 12-15 overall record, and in order
for them to continue their season
beyond this weekend, they need to
run the table and win the Big Ten
Tournament. As Big Ten Tourna-
ment champions, they would
recieve an automatic bid in the
NCAA Tournament. Although the
odds are against them - a No. 11
seed has never won the Big Ten
Tournament - the Wolverines, as
is their custom, remain extremely
"Everybody is like, 'Yeah we're
going to win these four games,'"
sophomore forword Tabitha Pool
sad. "We've been working hard in
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