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March 24, 2003 - Image 16

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 24, 2003

Rubin hits
on beam
for Blue
By Albert Kim
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - The meet had
come down to one person in the one
event that had plagued her all season.
It was Erica Rubin on the uneven bars
to determine whether the No. 10
Michigan gymnastics team would win
or lose in East Lansing Saturday
night. In what can only be described
as a focused and gutsy performance,
Rubin exorcised the demons of the
season and her past by hitting a rou-
tine that propelled the Wolverines to
victory over Michigan State and Pitts-
burgh.
"I didn't actually know I was com-
peting until today," Rubin said. "I do it
in practice every day, and that's my
job - to step in and do what's needed
to be done."
The Wolverines started on beam
and, despite an early fall by Chelsea
Kroll, were able to hit on five routines
and post a 49.350 that put them in the
early lead. Especially impressive after
the fall were the performances of
freshmen Becca Clauson and Jenny
Deiley, who cooly hit their routines.
Michigan then moved to the floor,
where some small steps on landings
cost them in the score column. The
Wolverines posted an uncharacteristi-
cally low 49.250 and opened the door
for the Spartans to make a push.
Michigan senior Janessa Grieco lived
it up in her last regular season meet,
though, as she placed third and smiled
straight for the team's video camera
twice during her routine.
On the vault, Michigan had no falls
and had no major mistakes. Deiley and
Kroll claimed first and second, respec-
tively, and the team posted a 49.150.
Going into the final rotation,
Michigan led by a seemingly comfort-
able 0.650, but Michigan State was on
the floor, and with the Senior Night
crowd urging it on, it posted unchar-
acteristilly high scores, including a
10.0 by one of the judges. This was in
spite of a Pittsburgh gymnast who was
able to hit a seemingly more difficult
routine, but only received a 9.875.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines were
having flashbacks to their last trip to
Jenison, as they struggled on the
uneven bars. Seven weeks ago in East
Lansing, the Wolverines hit their low-
est point of the year, posting a season-
low score of 193.900 and a bar score
of 47.850. The slide continued as

TONY DING/Daily
Michigan freshman Jenny Deiley was big on
the bars for Michigan against the Spartans.
injuries mounted, and the future
looked bleak. Michigan was able to
work its way back, but it remained to
be seen whether the Wolverines could
completely forget that day.
All-around champion Calli Ryals
and Grieco placed first and second
with 9.9s and better, but the middle of
the lineup struggled. Deiley's legs
seemed to give out in both her
warmup and competition landings.
Rosella missed her release, and the
drama unfolded as Rubin stepped up.
"Kara Rosella and Erica Rubin haveI
stepped up for us when we needed
them," Plocki said. "They're not the
ones scoring the 9.9s and the 10.0s,
but they've played a huge role for us;
in winning meets this year."
"It was really important for my con-
fidence," Rubin said. "It all came
together today, so I was really excit-
ed."
Saturday night was cathartic for the
Wolverines, as their journey as a team
has come full circle. Michigan battled
through falls on the beam and bars,
keeping its cool and focus while pro-
ducing some great individual efforts.
The Wolverines did not count a fallj
the entire meet, a testament to how far
this team has come.
"You can just tell, I think mentally
we're a lot stronger," Ryals said.f
"We're not a super consistent team
right now, but we've proved many
times that after a fall, our team can get
back up and hit."
Michigan will need more perform-
ances like that as it enters into the
postseason, starting with the Big Ten
Championships at Champaign this
coming weekend.
"Tonight wasn't the best perform-
ance that we've had so far, but we
fought through our meet," Grieco
said.

Seniors lead
wrestlers to
top-tO finish
By Sharad Mattu
Daily Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - While Michigan's Ryan
Bertin was on his way to a national championship, the
Wolverines' three seniors were all battling to become
All-American's for the second time. Two of the three
achieved just that, and Michigan left the NCAA
wrestling championships ecstatic with its seventh-
place finish.
Michigan finished with 58 points, while Oklahoma
State won its 31st national title convincingly with 143
points, well ahead of two-time defending champion
Minnesota. The Cowboys ended nearly a decade of
Big Ten dominance in wrestling, as the Big Ten had
won the last eight championships before this year.
Michigan's 197-pounder Kyle Smith, seeded ninth,
was an All-American in his first season as a starter
and hoped to go two-for-two. To do so, he needed a
win over Michigan State senior and No. 7 seed Nik
Fekete, a 2001 All-American.
After a scoreless first period, Fekete took a lead
with a takedown, but Smith stormed back with an
escape and a double-leg takedown of his own for a 4-2
lead after two periods. After Fekete got a quick escape
to open the third, he got another takedown and Smith
suddenly found himself behind again, this time 5-4.
With less than a minute left, Smith got an escape to tie
the score, and then with less than 15 seconds left,
clinched the match with a takedown.
"He got in on me early and got a lead, and I just tried
to stay in the match," the fifth-year senior said of his 7-
6 win. "I just found a way to pull it off in the end."
"Kyle really dug down deep and got that takedown
when he needed it." Michigan coach Joe McFarland
said. "All that extra conditioning work he's done all
season really paid off right there."
The match against Fekete followed a tough loss to
Lehigh's top seed, Jon Trenge. Smith was down 3-1
due to a pair of questionable technical violations, one
for locking hands, and the other for giving Trenge a
shove after he threw Smith into the scorer's table after
the whistle. With less than 10 seconds left, Smith had
Trenge in a cradle and was going for near-fall points.
But Smith got a little too aggressive, and Trenge
caught Smith on his back for the fall.
After defeating Fekete, Smith gave up a late take-
down to lose to Nebraska's No. 3 Justin Ruiz, and
pinned Fresno State's Marcio Botelho Saturday to fin-
ish seventh.
125-pounder A.J. Grant had cruised to the semifi-
nals, where he faced the always tough No. 1 seed
Chris Fleeger of Purdue. Grant was 0-5 against
Fleeger and finished second to him at the Big Ten
Championships just two weeks ago.
After a scoreless first period, Grant kept going after
Fleeger but come up empty. With 20 seconds left in the
period, Fleeger was able to take Grant down for a 2-0
lead. Fleeger added an escape in the third to win 3-0.
"That was a tough loss because it was such a close
match," McFarland said. "If A.J. had gotten that take-

NICULL ITWILLIGER/Daily
Senior Kyle Smith, shown here wrestling Northwestern's Matt Delguyd, performed well at NCAAs this weekend.
Smith finished seventh in the 197-pound division and received All-America honors for the second straight year.

4k

down in the second period, it could have been a com-
pletely different finish. But I'm real proud of him. He
was our most consistent wrestler all season, and I'm
happy he's an All-American again."
Grant pulled out a tough 2-0 win with a second-peri-
od reversal over No. 10 seed Tony Black from Wiscon-
sin. The fourth seed finished the tournament fourth
when No. 9 Jason Powel frpm Nebraska pinned him.
While Smith and Grant were able to meet their
expectations this weekend, 165-pounder Mike Kulczy-
cki struggled with injuries and lost two close matches
on the first day.
In the opening round, he lost to No. 9 Matt King
from Edinboro 2-0. Down by a point in the third peri-
od, the 2001 All-American couldn't escape, giving
King another point for riding time and the win.
Unfortunately for Kulczycki, things didn't get any
easier in the consolation bracket. His next match was
against No. 8 Noel Thompson of Hofstra, who was
upset in the first round. In a takedown-filled affair,
Kulczycki fell 16-13.
"The kid has gutted it out all year," McFarland said
about the fifth-year senior. "He's wrestling on a torn
ACL in his right knee and a high ankle sprain in his
left. He's been a leader in my room, and a leader in my
program since he walked in. Mike's got to keep his
head up. I feel bad that he wasn't able to accomplish
what he wanted to this year, but I'm real proud of
him."

Pat Owen, wrestling up at least one weight class at
174 pounds, went 2-2 this weekend. After a 11-0 loss
to No. 11 Mark Fee of Appalachian State, Owen won a
pair of matches in the consolation bracket, including
pinning VMI's Matt Erwin. Owen's run ended with a
5-1 loss to Fresno State's Eddy Gifford.
Three Wolverines made their first appearance, and
all three had some success this weekend.
After losing in the first round, Michigan heavy-
weight Greg Wagner won a pair of matches and found
himself facing No. 5 Boe Rushton from Boise State-
with the winner clinching All-American. Rushton got
an early takedown, and in a scramble caught him on
his back for the pin.
Michigan's 149-pounder, Ryan Churella, split four
matches this weekend. The second win was an impres-
sive 6-4 decision over No. 8 Travis Shufelt of Nebras-
ka. Churella took an early lead with a takedown and a
two-point near fall before Shufelt made a run but
came up short. Churella's weekend ended with an 8-2
loss to No. 11 Billy Smith of West Virginia.
Clark Forward went 1-2 this weekend, with the win
coming over Wisconsin's Tyler Laudon.
"I thought it was a gutsy performance by our guys,"
McFarland said. "We stayed positive all tournament
and all season. I was proud of the way everyone wres-
tled. We wrestled hard this weekend; we were sharp,
aggressive and demonstrated excellent conditioning. It
was a great tournament for Michigan wrestling."
BERTIN
Continued from Page 1B
"Ryan's a great a kid. He's a great
student-athlete," McFarland said. "He
}Q was really focused all weekend. He bat-
tled back this year from a foot injury.
This kid deserves everything he got
tonight because he works so hard."
After shaking hands with Tirapelle,
I. the first person Bertin ran over to hug
was assistant coach Tony Robie.
"Coach Robie has worked really hard
with him," McFarland said. "He's spent
a lot of time with him; drilling with him,
so he's the guy who's done a great job."
Bertin finished third at Big Ten
Championships after losing to Becker in
the semifinals. With a six-seed in the
bracket, McFarland noted before the
tournament that he "liked where Bertin
go was in the bracket." McFarland knew
what he was talking about.
WRESTLING'S BEST
The Wolverines managed a seventh-
place finish out of 75 teams this week-
end. Here is a look at the top 10.
Team Points
A0001 Oklahoma State 143
Minnesota 104.5
Oklahoma 78
Lehigh 69
Arizona State 65
Penn State 62
Michigan 58
Iowa 57.5
Illinois 53
Cornell 52

*

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