March 19, 2010

NCAA Release

OMAHA, Neb. - The Big Ten took a huge early lead in the team scoring, and held off a challenge by the Big 12 in the middle weights to earn a 57-37 victory in the first Big Ten vs. Big 12 Challenge on Friday.

This exhibition men's freestyle wrestling dual meet, presented by the NCAA and USA Wrestling, was part of the NCAA Fan Festival at the 2010 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Omaha, Neb. A standing-room only crowd of over 3,000 fans were in attendance, enjoying some outstanding freestyle action.

The rules for the Big Ten vs. Big 12 Challenge were modified. Instead of having individual match winners, there was a cumulative point total for each conference. Team scores were based upon adding up the technical points scored in each match by the athletes. At the end of the dual meet, the points were tallied up, with the Big Ten winning by 20 points.

In the first match of the day, the Big Ten took the lead and never looked back. At 55 kg/121 lbs., Nick Simmons, who was a star for Michigan State, reeled off an amazing 29 points in his match against Obe Blanc, who competed for Oklahoma State. He executed numerous front headlock turns, as well as exposures from the mat, for a dominant advantage. It was a rematch of the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Nationals finals, also won by Simmons.

The next match was a push, as Jimmy Kennedy, who is taking a redshirt year for Illinois, scored one point, and Coleman Scott, a past NCAA champion for Oklahoma State, also scored one point.

The Big 12 wrestlers outscored their Big Ten opponents in the next three weight classes, closing the gap.

At 66 kg/145.5 lbs., Jared Frayer, who was a NCAA runner-up at Oklahoma tallied seven points against Joe Johnston, past NCAA runner-up from Iowa, who scored one point.

In a competitive battle at 74 kg/163 lbs., past NCAA champion Trent Paulson of Iowa State scored 10 total points against Mike Poeta, an NCAA runner-up for Illinois, who scored eight points. Paulson was a member of the 2009 U.S. Freestyle World Team.

The 84 kg/185 lbs. match featured a pair of two-time NCAA champion. Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State scored an impressive 17 points against Jake Herbert of Northwestern, who scored six points. Herbert was a 2009 World silver medalist in freestyle.

The Big Ten closed out the meet with two strong performances. At 96 kg/211.5 lbs., 2008 U.S. Olympian Andy Hrovat, who was a star for Michigan, put up nine points, while David Bertolino from Iowa State tallied one point.

Closing out the match at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. was past NCAA runner-up Aaron Anspach of Penn State who scored three points, while Missouri's Dominique Bradley did not score. Bradley was a 2009 Junior World freestyle champion.

In a exhibition bout at 120 kg/264.5 lbs., two-time Div. II national champion Tervel Dlagnev of UN-Kearney earned seven points, while past Div. III national champion Blake Gillis of Wartburg did not score. Dlagnev was a 2009 World silver medalist in freestyle wrestling.

The teams were coached by a pair of retired coaches from each conference, both who were also past U.S. Olympic Team members: Mark Johnson of Illinois for the Big Ten and Bobby Douglas of Iowa State for the Big 12.

The event was filled with many prominent wrestling celebrities.

Serving as honorary captains were award-winning actor Billy Baldwin and three-time Super Bowl champion football star Stephen Neal of the New England Patriots.

Neal, who was a 1999 World Champion in freestyle wrestling, received his special leather jacket from USA Wrestling as a past U.S. World Team member. Neal was a two-time NCAA champion at Cal-State Bakersfield. Baldwin, a wrestler for Binghamton University, received a Team USA warmup for his support of the event.

The crowd included numerous international wrestling stars who came out as fans, including Olympic and World champion Kenny Monday, three-time World champion Lee Kemp, Olympic champion John Peterson, World champion Clarissa Chun and many others. Olympic champion Kendall Cross was one of the public address announcers.

The event was webcast live on

The dual meet was held on the mats where USA Wrestling's Team USA hosts their popular public workouts between sessions of the 2010 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships each day. Admission to the Fan Festival is free.

BIG TEN 57 pts., BIG 12 37 pts.
at Omaha, Neb., March 19
55 kg/121 lbs. - Nick Simmons (Big 10/Michigan State), 29 pts., Obe Blanc (Big 12/Oklahoma State), 1 pt.
60 kg/132 lbs. - Jimmy Kennedy (Big 10/Illinois), 1 pt., Coleman Scott (Big 12/Oklahoma State), 1 pt.
66 kg/145.5 lbs. -Jared Frayer (Big 12/Oklahoma), 7 pts., Joe Johnston (Big 10/Iowa), 1 pt.
74 kg/163 lbs. - Trent Paulson (Big 12/Iowa State), 10 pts., Mike Poeta (Big 10/Illinois), 8 pts.
84 kg/185 lbs. - Chris Pendleton (Big 12/Oklahoma State), 17 pts., Jake Herbert (Northwestern), 6 pts.
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Andy Hrovat (Big Ten/Michigan), 9 pts., David Bertolino (Big 12/Iowa State), 1 pt.
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Aaron Anspach (Big Ten/Penn State), 3 pts., Dominique Bradley (Missouri) 0 pts.

Exhibition bouts
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Tervel Dlagnev (UN-Kearney), 7 pts., Blake Gillis (Wartburg), 0 pts.

Big 10 Coach: Mark Johnson (Illinois)
Big 12 Coach: Bobby Douglas (Iowa State) Honorary Captains: Stephen Neal, Billy Baldwin