Missouri's Askren Posts 3 Wins On First Day Of NCAA Finals

Friday, March 16th 2007, 6:23 am
By: News On 6

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ Missouri's Ben Askren won three matches in the NCAA wrestling championships Thursday to extend his winning streak to 84, while Minnesota took a 4 1/2-point lead over the Tigers in the team standings.

Nine of the 10 top seeds, including three defending champions, advanced to the quarterfinals on the first day of competition at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

It was a different story in the team competition, where Oklahoma State, winner of the past four national titles, was seventh after two rounds.

Askren, wrestling at 174 pounds, beat Northern Illinois' Daniel Burk 19-4, pinned Lloyd Rogers of Tennessee-Chattanooga and finished by pinning Minnesota's Gabriel Dretsch. Askren hasn't lost since the 2005 national championship match.

``I don't have any nerves when I'm wrestling any more _ I'm the old man now,'' said Askren, who is looking for a fourth straight trip to the 174-pound championship match. ``I'm just having fun out there.''

Minnesota led the team competition after Thursday night's consolation matches with 34 points, with Missouri second at 29.5. Iowa State was third with 27.5, Penn State had 24 and Iowa rounded out the top five with 20. Oklahoma State was seventh with 18.

With just three quarterfinalists to Minnesota's seven, Askren knows a team title is going to be tough.

``We had a tough night,'' Askren said. ``We've still got a chance if we do a great job Friday morning, but Minnesota won a lot of matches today.''

The only top seed to lose Thursday was Askren's younger brother Max, who was upset by Cal State-Bakersfield's Brandon Halsey 5-4 in a first-round match at 197 pounds.

``I told him to keep his head up,'' Ben Askren said. ``We all lose some of the time.''

While his teammates struggled, Oklahoma State's Johny Hendricks had one of the easiest first days among the top seeds. The two-time defending 165-pound champion needed just 72 seconds to pin Cal State-Bakersfield's Daniel Atondo in the first round, then picked up a 21-5 win over Purdue's Justin Fraga in the evening session.

Minnesota's Cole Konrad, the defending heavyweight champ, picked up two comfortable wins to move to the quarterfinals, but things weren't as easy for teammate Dustin Schlatter at 149 pounds. The top seed scraped by Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs 3-2 in the first round and needed a last-second takedown to clinch a 5-1 victory over Bloomsburg's Matt Moley.

``That was an ugly day, but at this level, you take any win you can get,'' said Schlatter, wiping away blood from a cut under his eye. ``I'm just glad I got through the first day and got the nerves out of the way.''

A pair of top-seeded Northwestern Wildcats also advanced to the quarterfinals _ Ryan Lang at 141 pounds and Jake Herbert at 184. Herbert lost 14-2 to Ben Askren in the 2006 finals at 174 before moving up a weight class this year.

The two lightest top seeds also advanced to Friday morning's quarterfinals. Oklahoma's Sam Hazewinkel fell behind 2-0 to Penn State's Mark McKnight in the first period of their second-round match at 125 pounds, but rallied for a 7-4 victory, while Michigan State's Nick Simmons moved through at 133 pounds.

Trent Paulson, the top seed at 157 pounds, also made it to Friday, beating Penn's Matt Dragon and Drexel's Ryan Hluschak. Paulson was tied 7-7 late in his match with Hluschak, but scored five late points moments after narrowly avoiding a pin.

``That could have gone either way,'' Paulson said. ``I just kept fighting.''