WVU Plays Host to Michigan State

By Ira Green WVU Sports Information Office

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (January 16, 2009) – The West Virginia University wrestling team will make history on Saturday night, Jan. 17, when it plays host to Big Ten opponent Michigan State. The match marks the first time, since location records have been kept, that WVU will wrestle two Big Ten opponents in a single season at the WVU Coliseum. The match against the Spartans is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.

WVU (2-3, 0-0) competed well against No. 7-ranked Illinois on Jan. 9, but ultimately fell 26-19 (the Fighting Illini started ahead 6-0 after WVU forfeited the 125-pound position). It was the second ranked opponent the Mountaineers have faced this season.

“I felt the direction that everyone was going from the first dual meet from break back to Illinois seemed to be taking some steps forward,” Coach Craig Turnbull said. “Even though growth isn't a straight line, we're continuing to move in the correct direction.”

Freshman Colin Johnston (141) notched the Mountaineers’ first points of the dual match, earning his first career fall victory. Tied at two apiece after the first period, Johnston was in the offensive position to start the second session. After riding Illinois’ Ryan Prater, Johnston was able to flip him on his back and earn the pin at the 4:54 mark.

Ranked No. 20 in the nation at 149 pounds, fifth-year senior David Jauregui tacked on another four points for the Mountaineers by earning a major decision against Illinois’ Eric Terrazas. Jauregui, a Santa Ana, Calif., native, tallied six takedowns through three periods, while not being taken down once by Terrazas. Jauregui also garnered 2:17 worth of riding time en route to a 15-5 victory.

Fellow fifth-year seniors Kurt Brenner (174) and Dustin Rogers (HWT) also registered wins for WVU. Brenner posted a 7-4 decision over Illinois’ John Dergo, while Rogers upset 10th-ranked John Wise by pinning him at the 4:25 mark.

Michigan State (3-2, 0-0) is led by 133-pounder Franklin Gomez, who is ranked first in the nation in the latest InterMat polls. With a 9-0 overall mark, 5-0 in dual matches, has defeated two ranked opponents (then-No. 13 ranked Kyle Hutter of Old Dominion, 10-3, on Nov. 9 and then-No. 13 ranked Conor Beebe of Central Michigan, 11-4, on Jan. 3) this season.

The Spartans last wrestled then-No. 12 ranked Central Michigan on Jan. 3 and fell 29-6. Gomez and 184-pound Nick Palmieri were the only Michigan State wrestlers to record victories. Palmieri won on an 8-6 decision, improving his overall record to 5-4.

“I don't know a lot about Michigan State's lineup, and in some ways, it's kind of refreshing and good,” Turnbull commented. “Many teams we wrestle on an annual basis and we know a lot about their guys. We recruit in similar areas and people know each other from high school.

“Michigan State is a team that we haven't wrestled since I've been here. They recruit in different circles than we do so we don't know a lot about them. We need to get out there and wrestle the best we can. The only athlete I'm very familiar with is their 133-pounder, who is ranked first in the nation this year.”

Michigan State is under the direction of Tom Minkel, who is in 18th season with the program. Minkel owns a 131-154-3 record with the program. Last season, the Spartans finished with a 4-13 overall mark, including a 0-8 mark in the Big Ten. The squad returns its only NCAA qualifier and 16 letterwinners.

“I know the Big Ten in general because they recruit very successfully and many of the better high school wrestlers in the country to wrestle in the Big Ten,” Turnbull said, “so regardless of what Big Ten team you wrestle, they are generally going to put a very credible athlete at every weight class. We're excited to get another dual meet going.”

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