The Big Ten tournament always produces wild, unexpected and unpredictable matches. Well — this year was no different. Only four of the ten No. 1 seeds wrestled to a title, and four undefeated wrestlers picked up a loss. The results from this tournament show off what the top athletes in the country can do, and now all the attention will be on the next big stage: the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis.
The Iowa Hawkeyes will enter the national tournament as Big Ten champions, having picked up the team win at the conference level for the first time since 2010, led by three winners in 125-pound Spencer Lee, 141-pound Pat Lugo and 165-pound Alex Marinelli. Lee's performance led him to be named Big Ten wrestler of the Year, and head coach Tom Brands picked up Big Ten coach of the year honors.
Nebraska finished second as a team in the Big Ten with one finalist and five third-place finishers. The Ohio State Buckeyes took third with two champs in Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher, while Penn State took fourth with two champs in Aaron Brooks and Mark Hall. Northwestern also had two champs in Sebastian Rivera and Ryan Deakin and finished sixth as a team. Rivera's performance also earned him Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament, while Brooks won Freshman of the Year for his win. Minnesota had the final champion at 285 pounds in Gable Steveson and finished eighth as a team.
Before the bright lights of the national tournament shine, let's take a look back at how each of the Big Ten champions accomplished their goals.
LIVE UPDATES FROM THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
125: Spencer Lee dominates Devin Schroder 16-2
Spencer Lee started the first period with full force and scored two quick takedowns with a long ride against Devin Schroder. He was up 4-1 after the first two minutes, and then rode out the rest of the first period in complete control. Lee needed just seconds in the following period to score two more points and take a 6-1 lead as Schroder is warned for stalling.
Lee is a machine on top, and he hasn't given Schroder a break all match. There's one story of this match, and it's been Lee's top game. Schroder choose neutral to start the third period, but Lee immediately followed the third-period starting whistle with a takedown. He then went up 8-1 with riding time in good position for bonus in this championship match. Schroder is a fighter though, and he looks for the takedown, but Lee turns it into a takedown for the 10-2 lead. Bonus must be Spencer Lee's middle name.
Both athletes are warned for stalling, but Lee is fighting on top. Lee with a last-second near fall for back points to finish out with a 16-2 major decision.
Spencer Lee is a Big Ten Champion!
133: Sebastian Rivera beats Roman Bravo-Young 7-2
Oh boy, oh boy! This is one of the biggest matchups of the night, as two fighters go head-to-head for their first Big Ten title at 133 pounds. Sebastian Rivera won the conference last year at 125 pounds, but he's bumped up now and will take on Penn State superstar Roman Bravo-Young. Get ready, folks!
Rivera is sporting the Gothic-style singlets while Bravo-Young is in the classic Penn State Blue singlet, for those of you who are interested.
Bravo-Young makes the first move and picks up two with an early takedown. He's looking for more control, but Rivera is fighting hard to get out. And he escapes for one! A little bit of handfighting and Bravo-Young goes for another two, leading the men into a scramble. The referee calls potentially dangerous, and we're back to the middle of the mat.
Rivera chooses down to start the second and escapes to tie the match. We're back to the handfighting and Rivera looks for seomthing, possible a headlock to a turn, but he's unsuccessful with Bravo-Young countering everything. Oh, but there's a leg! Rivera puts Brvavo-Young down and looks for backpoints. He takes the two, and that's a 4-2 lead for the Wildcat.
Bravo-Young will choose down to start the third, and he'll either need an escape and long ride or a takedown. Rivera has put all the pressure on his opponent, and he's picking up more riding time making things more difficult for Bravo-Young. One minute remaining. Twenty seconds remaining. Rivera has 1:02 riding time. And now he's a winner.
Sebastian Rivera is a Big Ten Champion!
141: Luke Pletcher earns revenge against Nick Lee in a 6-5 win
A big rematch is in front of us! Here we go.
Scrambling, scrambling, scrabling! This match starts with tons of action, but it's Pletcher with the first two points. Lee picks up the escape, and it's 2-1 Pletcher. Lee secures a leg and finishes despite Plectcher's attempt to roll through the takedown just like he did in the dual. Lee leads 3-2 after the first two minutes.
Pletcher escapes, and it's 3-3 with thirty seconds left in the first period. Pletcher picks up an early escape to take the lead in the second period. It's 4-3 with 1:30 to go in the period. Lee looks for a leg, but Pletcher is too fast. These men equally talented and putting on a show! It's been an action-packed match, but both guys have been called for stalling, suggesting that the referee wants to see more movement.
Escape for Lee to start the third, and we're all tied up at 4-4. Pletcher has kept this match closer than he did in State College. The Ohio State veteran then goes for double leg, but is countered, only to prompt Pletcher to shoot again. He takes the 6-5 lead with a takedown after Lee's escape. Thirty seconds left. Pletcher looks for shot, but they go out of bounds. But it doesn't matter, this one belongs to the Buckeye.
Luke Pletcher is a Big Ten champion!
149: Pat Lugo outmuscles Sammy Sasso 2-1
No points after the first minute, but these guys are still fighting. The matchup between Sasso and Lugo is interesting for a number of reasons though, one being just the body type difference between Lugo's strength and Sasso's length. It's Lugo with the first takedown and he'll control Sasso out of bounds. Lugo returns to the center and executes a nice mat return to ride out the period. He'll end the first up 2-0 with 1:10 of riding time.
These guys are excited, both picking up a caution off the start. Lugo started the period on the bottom, but Sasso holds him down to rack up riding time before working him out of the circle. Sasso rides out the period for :46 seconds of total riding time. Now it's Lugo's turn to ride, as Sasso choose bottom but needs :30 to escape. The escape is under review. The call is reversed. Lugo still leads 2-0 and works to run down Sasso's riding time, but he's warned for stalling and cuts the Buckeye loose. It's 2-1 Lugo with less than a minute in the third period. Sasso makes a move and puts Lugo nearly on his back, but time expires. The officials are reviewing the call. The Big Ten title is in the balance. The call is confirmed. Sasso isn't happy, but he'll think about this 2-1 match over the next two weeks and look forward to the rematch at nationals.
Pat Lugo is a Big Ten champion!
IOWA CLINCHES THE BIG TEN TEAM TITLE
157: Ryan Deakin holds off Kendall Coleman 7-2
No. 1 undefeated Ryan Deakin looks for his first Big Ten title as he takes on Purdue's young Kendall Coleman, and the first period was all Deakin. He scored the first takedown and was looking for back points earlier, but the athletes go out of bounds. They sure do know how to ride at Northwestern though as Deakin built up nearly two minutes of riding time after the first period. He chose down to start the second and picked up an early escape, and now at neutral, it's Coleman that is doing the attacking. Deakin, being Deakin, tried to turn Coleman's shot into a counterattack, but he created a stalemate. Another takedown for Deakin, and he ends the period 5-0. Coleman chose neutral to start the third period, and he'd like to run down some of Deakin's riding time and pick up two takedowns to fight for a win.
And there he goes! That's two for Coleman and an escape for Deakin, and we're at 6-2 Deakin with 1:12 to go in the match. Coleman shoots a double leg, but he can't finish against Deakin's defense. Thirty seconds remaining. No problem for the Wildcat as he picks up a 7-2 win with riding time.
Ryan Deakin is a Big Ten champion!
165: Alex Marinelli grinds out a tough 3-2 win over Vincenzo Joseph
All you need to do is say these two names to get wrestling fans excited. It's the re-match everyone has been waiting for: Cenzo vs. The Bull.
Lots of pressure on both sides, yet it was Joseph who took the first shot with a double leg. Marinelli defended the action and is fighting hard to force the pace, while Joseph looks calm and collected. He's letting Marinelli pick the positions but not letting him move forward with them. No points after the first period, and Marinelli will choose bottom to start the period.
Escape Marinelli, and he'll take the first lead of the match. Joseph looks for a shot, but Marinelli counters again and avoid letting Joseph slip into his sweet spot. It's been a defensive match so far with Marinelli's escape being the only point on the board after five minutes. Joseph chooses down to start the third and picks up the escape to tie the match. Joseph has taken most of the shots, but he hasn't been able to score. Blood time for Marinelli. Both guys know where the other wants to be, and they are avoiding those spots, explaining the 1-1 score.
Here comes the scramble! No points, but the pace has increased. One minute to go. More blood time for Marinelli. We're still 1-1. Marinelli grabs Joseph's leg and picks up the first two points of the match, and that will do it. Joseph adds the escape, but it's not enough. The Bull wins!
Alex Marinelli is a Big Ten champion!
174: Mark Hall avenges a loss to Michael Kemerer with a tough 8-5 win
Mark Hall makes the first move and looks for two, picking up the first takedown within a minute of the match starting. Kemerer escapes, but the action continues. These two men are both elite athletes, and they are wrestling with respect. The first period ends with Hall holding 2-1 advantage, and the Penn State senior picks bottom. Escape Hall, but Kemerer immediately goes into a shot. He can't finish, and Hall finds some offense of his own, picking up back points on the defense. A takedown follows for Hall which gives him a 7-1 lead with less than a minute left in the second period. Kemerer picks up another escape point, but he'll need a move of his own to put himself back in the match. A shot by Kemerer puts the men back in a handfighting position, but Kemerer can't finish it out before the end of the period.
Starting on the bottom for the third, Kemerer picks up a quick escape to bring to score to 7-3. And now he's on the attack! Kemerer forces a scramble and picks up the two to bring the score to 7-5, but a Hall escape extends the Penn State senior's lead to 8-5. A stall against Hall could be a glimmer of hope for Kemerer, as he needs to find three points in the next 30 seconds to claim a conference title. Kemerer goes for the same move that he scored on earlier, but time runs out.
Mark Hall is a Big Ten champion!
184: Aaron Brooks wins Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors for his 3-2 win over Cam Caffey
No points yet in the third period, but these guys are hungry.
Neither of these two men have won a Big Ten title, but they are both wrestling with calmness and focus as they ward off each other's attacks. Caffey chose down to start the first period and earned an escape to get on the board first, but then Brooks picks up his action and looks for two. They go out of bounds and continue to fight back in the center. No points yet for either athlete other than Caffey's escape.
Brooks choose bottom to start the third period, and an escape will tie it. And there he has it! We're all tied up at 1-1 with less than two minutes to go. Brooks hooks a leg, but Caffey held strong and even looked for a counterattack on the edge. The referee continues to yell "neutral," but Caffey and Brooks are scrambling tough. Back to the center we go with 30 seconds to go. That's two for Brooks on a short-time takedown! Caffey picks up an escape, but Penn State has another winner!
Aaron Brooks is a Big Ten Champion!
197: Kollin Moore picks up his third Big Ten title, this time in 4-1 fashion vs. Eric Schultz
Eric Schultz has put together an impressive season, and here's his chance to put an exclamation mark on his year. But Kollin Moore is TOUGH.
The Ohio State stayed patient, looking the right moment to take his shot, and there it is. Two points for Kollin Moore and a first-period rideout. He leads 2-0 to start the second and will start on bottom in this next period. A quick escape gives him the 3-0 lead. Schultz has certainly been aggressive in this match but hasn't been able to score. He's fighting, battling and wrestling tough against the No. 1 athlete in the country. Moore holds the 3-0 lead into the third period, but Schultz will start down looking for his first point. Moore rode Schultz for the first minutes of the period before cutting him lose, though the Buckeye still leads comfortably 3-1 with 1:43 of riding time. It's a one-takedown match, but it's been all Moore, and he'll do it again.
Kollin Moore is a Big Ten champion!
285: Gable Steveson holds tough for an 8-6 win over Mason Parris
And here we go! Mason Parris and Gable Steveson wrestle so strong, but it's Paris with the shot. He doesn't quite finish, but shows off his talent and speed. And now it's Steveson with the two, and he looks to flip Parris for backpoints, but Parris escapes. It's 2-1 with 1:20 to go in the first. Parris has been making moves towards a shot, but so far it's only been Steveson who has been able to put up points, and a second takedown extends his lead to 4-2. Parris finds a cradle, but it's too late and time runs out in the period. He does a quick escape to start the second, and it's 4-3 Steveson with 1:30 to wrestle in the second.
Another scramble! Holy cow, these guys are athletic. No points, but some dangerous situations as Steveson and Parris roll off the mat. The second period will end with Steveson ahead 4-3, and Steveson choose bottom to start the third. An escape for Steveson and a fast shot gives him momentum, but just the one point. Steveson leads 5-3 as the refs review the situation.
An attack from Parris, but no points. 5-3 Steveson with one minute left. Steveson picks up another takedown, and Parris looks for a short-time move. He picks up two, but it's not enough. Steveson takes the win 8-6.
Only one undefeated heavyweight remains...— Minnesota Wrestling (@GopherWrestling) March 8, 2020
B1G Champ Gable Steveson pic.twitter.com/eeg9SxVbyO
Gable Steveson is a Big Ten champion!