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Post B1G tourney, 3 Badgers qualify for Big Dance

first_imgBig Ten Freshman of the Year Medbery headlines Wisconsin wrestlers in the NCAA tourney.[/media-credit]In the country’s most challenging wrestling conference tournament, the Wisconsin wrestling team finished 10th overall in the team competition at the Big Ten Tournament, but witnessed the Badgers’ top three wrestlers earn NCAA tournament bids.Redshirt junior Tyler Graff, redshirt freshman Connor Medbery and redshirt junior Jackson Hein will compete at the NCAA tournament starting March 21 by finishing third at 133-pounds, fourth at heavyweight and seventh at 197-pounds, respectively. Redshirt senior Tom Kelliher also earned a spot on the podium at the Big Ten tournament by finishing eighth.In the wake of the tournament, Medbery was also awarded the 2013 Big Ten Wrestling Freshman of the Year award.Head coach Barry Davis was proud of the three Badgers that will be wrestling later in March but wished a couple more of his wrestlers were joining them.“It’s good to get three guys to go [to the NCAA tournament],” Davis said. “We had a chance to get a couple of more guys. We had some close matches, some opportunities we didn’t quite capitalize on.”Both Graff and Medbery received top ten seeds in the NCAA tournament, with Graff wrestling as the 3-seed and Medbery wrestling as the 7-seed. Hein is unseeded in the 197-pound weight bracket and is the only Badger facing a ranked opponent in the first round.The two-time All-American Graff finished second in the Big Ten tournament two years ago and fourth in his freshman campaign. Graff went 2-0 on the second day of the tournament, pinning Illinois’s Daryl Thomas in the first period and defeating Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes to finish third.The Big Ten’s top rookie snatched the highest NCAA tournament seed of all freshmen in the heavyweight class based on his Big Ten tournament performance and was even able to do it feeling under the weather. Medbery said he was vomiting throughout the entire weekend, even before competing, after catching the flu on Friday. However, Medbery tried to prove it to himself that he could compete with the league’s best even feeling sick.“Part of it was mental toughness,” Medbery said. “That was good, I still went out there and still competed and was able to win matches and even have close matches with some of the top guys even when I’m not feeling 100 percent.”Medbery lost the third-place match by decision to the 4-seed in the tournament, Iowa’s Bobby Telford, after nearly scoring a takedown to finish in the top three.Medbery was disappointed in his finish and knew he was capable of better wrestling, but knows he can hold his ground with difficult competition.“It was good to test yourself because the Big Ten Conference is really tough,” Medbery said. “Just getting through that tournament knowing every match is a grind. That’s what NCAAs is all about.”Hein finished the conference in the exact position he was seeded. He won the seventh place match against 5-seed Braden Atwood in a 4-2 decision.While Hein was looking to finish better than where he was positioned, he acknowledged that beating two opponents ranked in the top 20 is a feat worth noting.He said he needs to improve his ability to get out from the down position to avoid his opponents racking up riding time points.“It’s better than what happened last year,” Hein said. “Last year I went 0-2 and I wasn’t too happy when I was leaving the tournament. I’m definitely still not satisfied placing seventh, but I’ve had a lot of close matches with people.”Hein has been fortunate enough to have trained with Badger assistant coach Trevor Brandvold. He earned two All-American honors and two Big Ten titles at the 197-pound weight class. Hein said that wrestling with Brandvold in practice has been fundamental to his growth.The Badgers have another few days to train until the three qualifiers travel to Des Moines on Tuesday for the NCAA tournament. Davis understands that the last week of practice can be imperative in succeeding in close match situations.“We just have to make sure we’re converting, coming out ahead instead of behind one point,” Davis said. “That’s the whole key. Whether it be one takedown by Graff, a matter of getting away, a matter riding a guy for five more seconds. There are things we’re going to continue to work on, and when we get to the NCAAs, we need to make sure that instead of losing by a point, we end up winning that match by a point because that could be the difference.”last_img

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