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February 19, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-02-19

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 9A

Owen fights adversity

to lead Blu
0 By Seth Gordon
For the Daily
Senior Pat Owen has been a dominat-
ing force for the Michigan wrestling
team this season.
Just looking at his stats, which are
impressive, would belie the tough road
to success that he has been forced to
travel. Owen leads the team with 85
points in dual matches, is ranked No. 4
in his weight class, and has amassed a
* 24-5 overall record.
Such accomplishments seemed out of
reach, especially to his doctors, when he
was born with a club right foot.
Owen's right foot was pointed down
and twisted severely inward, which
required four surgeries by the time he
was eight. The last of these cut his tibia
and fibula in half, rotating them 40
degrees outward to correct his severe
pigeon-toe.
Going against his doctor's initial fears,
Owen immersed himself in sports.
"I played just about everything -just
to prove to myself that I could do it,"
Owen said.
In fact, Owen excelled at Poison High
School in Montana, leading his football
team in tackles, finishing second in the
state in high jump and winning three
state wrestling titles.
But how did a boy from Montana -
who by his own admission only knew of
Michigan from its 1998 Rose Bowl
match-up with nearby Washington State
- end up at Michigan?
It starts with the fact that Owen's
father and several of his uncles are all
high school wrestling coaches. They
had maintained a relationship with
Michigan coach Joe McFarland after
attending one of his wrestling camps
in nearby Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.
NITTANY LIONS
Continued from Page SA
Wolverines kept full-court pressure
on the ball for most of the game. In
the face of this effort, Penn State (3-
8, 9-13) turned the ball over 16 times
and shot just 34 percent from the
floor.
Despite leading Penn State with 19
points, Smith was also the most care-
less of the Nittany Lions, serving up
seven turnovers.
Penn State's leading scorer, Jan
Jagla, as has become the norm in his
visits to Ann Arbor, was unable to find
his groove, finishing 3-for-12 from the
floor with 10 points.
"It was a team defensive effort,"
Amaker said. "We had some trouble
trying to guard (Penn State forward)
An, Johnson (who finished with 11
* points) in the paint, but I thought we
wore them down."
Horton was a huge part of the solid
all-around effort from the Wolverines.
The sophomore hit for 11 points while
chipping in five assists, and playing
solid defense, holding Luber to seven
points.
Abram and center Courtney Sims
also reached double digits in points, fin-
ishing with 16 and 13, respectively.
Sims finished a perfect 6-for-6 from the
floor and pulled down seven rebounds.
Regardless of the quality of oppo-
nent, the result was exactly what a
floundering Michigan team was look-
ing for, especially with No. 12 Wiscon-
sin - the Big Ten's top team -
coming to Ann Arbor on Sunday.
"We needed a win," Amaker said.
"The medicine for us was to play well
and win."
* ROSEN
Continued from Page 8A

coming week and a half. That's a
tough stretch.
To make things worse, it's Spring
Break, and any home-court advan-
tage could be hurt by a lack of stu-
dent support.
Back in September, sophomore
guard Daniel Horton implored the
Maize Rage, at the group's mass
meeting, to stay in town for these
upcoming games. Given the team's
recent struggles, these contests
could be more important than the
point guard even realized at that
time.
"It's very tough," Robinson said
of the upcoming stretch. "But we're
going to be ready to play when the
time comes. We have to. We have no
choice."
If last night's 23-point win is any
indication, the Wolverines are on
the right track.
Dan Rosen can be reached at
danielsr@umich.edu
ui I
MYARCH ITECT

grapplers
Owen's uncles told McFarland about
their nephew.
After watching Owen at the National
High School Championships, McFar-
land brought him to Ann Arbor for a
recruiting trip.
"The moment I set foot on campus ..-.
I knew this was the place I was supposed
to be,' Owen said. "I went home and told
my parents I was a Michigan man."
But Owen's life was not without
obstacles when he arrived at Michigan.
In his sophomore season, Owen was
forced to watch from the sidelines when
he was put behind then-freshman Ryan
Bertin.
Owen and Bertin wrestled a challenge
match to decide who would take the spot
at 157 pounds, and Owen lost the third
match of the challenge in double over-
time.
This was a difficult setback for Owen,
who then watched Bertin succeed in his
place and eventually earn All-America
honors.
"It was hard to deal with," said Owen.
"I could see myself being in his shoes,
and I said to myself, 'Man, I know I'm
capable of that."'
Last year, Owen moved up to wres-
tle at 165 pounds, and did very well,
capping off the year by pinning the No.
4, No. 6 and No. 16 wrestlers in the
country.
Right before the Big Ten champi-
onships, however, Owen moved up to
174 pounds to accommodate the return
of all-American wrestler Mike Kulczyc-
ki, who had just returned from a knee
injury.
Owen went on to qualify for the
NCAA tournament at 174 pounds, but
fell short of becoming an All-American
by two wins.
This season at 165 pounds, Owen

M WOMEN'S TENNIS
M' awaits tough test
before trip to Hawaii

JEFF LEHNERT/Daily
Montana native Pat Owen overcame a birth defect to become the fourth-ranked
165-pound wrestler in the nation and the team leader In dual match points.

has been "Mr. Reliable" for McFar-
land's team. He is one of the team's
three captains and is excited for the
upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tourna-
ments.
In addition to his success on the mat,
Owen is a person of great character off
of it.
This was evident during the team's
rehearsal for "Mock Rock," a charity
event for Mott Children's Hospital
that took place Tuesday. Here he was
leading the choreography of his team-
mates' faux-synchronized swimming
routine, all set to the tune of "My
Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion.
Even in such a silly scene, he was
focused and determined to provide the
entertainment at an important charity
event.
This small example pales in compari-
son to the work Owen does with a local
high school wrestler.

Zack Damon has limited use of his
legs due to cerebral palsy, but still com-
petes for Pioneer High School.
For the past three years, Owen has
met once a week with Zack to work on
his wrestling. Owen does this immedi-
ately after finishing his own practices
with the team.
"It shows you what a kind heart Pat
has," said McFarland. "I'll put these
guys through a doozy (of a practice),
and then he'll stick around after practice
and spend another hour and a half with
Zack, and I know the kid's got to be
exhausted."
Owen feels he has become the person
he is because of the obstacles he has
faced since birth. It's not his physical
ability that has brought him to where he
is, it's the drive he has. "I always tell
(kids), 'If I had two normal legs, I don't
think I'd be at Michigan, wrestling,' "
Owen said.

By Richie Jain
For The Daily
After disposing of South Carolina
last weekend, the Michigan women's
tennis team has been focusing on its
next match against Ten-
nessee on Saturday.}
In the past week's AT
practices, the Wolver-
ines have worked on
individual improve-
ments, drills and play-
ing out points. VityT
Tennessee is coming M
off two losses last week-
end against North Carolina and
Wake Forest. The Volunteers look to
end their losing streak when they
take on No. 25 Michigan in Ann
Arbor.
Even though the Wolverines have
had a solid week of practice, Michi-
gan coach Bitsy Ritt is still appre-
hensive about this weekend's
match-up. Tennessee is 4-0 against
Big Ten teams this season.
"They have the ability and will-
ingness to play the long point at all
of their positions," Ritt said. "They
traditionally have a lot of heart and
fight ... They have very smart play-
ers that can all go to plan 'B' if
things aren't working and hit a
heavy ball with a lot of spin, making
you earn the point."
After practice on Tuesday, Ritt
explained to her team that it must be
patient against Tennessee because the
Volunteers make few unforced errors
and are well-coached in doubles.
Preparing for Tennessee has also
proved difficult because the Volun-

>« :_:
' '

teers' lineup is not yet set due to
various injuries.
"We are very healthy right now,
except for a few nagging injuries that
some individuals are dealing with,"
said Ritt, commenting on her own
team's physical health.
Ritt has been very
DA happy with her team
this year, mentioning
e that she has confidence
in each player.
"The senior leader-
ns Cene ship has been excel-
lent," Ritt said. "It's
stronger than it has
been in the past, and it makes a big
difference to the team. They recog-
nize their responsibility, and they
have been stepping up."
Freshman phenom Elizabeth Exon
has been a valuable addition to the
team. Ranked No. 37 in the county
and No. 6 in the Midwest by the
Intercollegiate Tennis Association,
Exon currently plays No. 2 singles.'
Michigan's biggest win of the sea-
son was a 4-3 victory against Notre
Dame in late January in Ann Arbor.
But Ritt was quick to point out that
the most important match is always
the next one on the schedule.
"Big wins are meaningless unless
you continue to improve and d'o
what you did in the past to win,"
Ritt said.
The team heads to Hawaii far
Spring Break to compete against
Hawaii and Long Beach State, but the
Wolverines are concentrating on beat-
ing Tennessee before making the trip.
"We're not going to Hawaii until
we beat Tennessee," Ritt said.

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