Lowe earns surprising NCAA berth

by Brian Stensaas

IMADISON, Wis. – it was the most enthusiasm the wrestler had shown to date. His fists pumped, his smile lit up an otherwise dark Field House and as he ran back to the dressing area, the throng of Minnesota fans perched in their corner stood to applaud him.

In just the knick of time, Bobbe Lowe had done it. His ticket was officially stamped for Kansas City.

Needing a win to assure himself a top-seven finish at the Big Ten tournament and a berth in the NCAA field, Lowe, the eighth seed at 125, scored a takedown on fifth-seeded Twan Pham of Illinois with one second remaining in their fourth-round match.

“I felt a lot more secure about myself,” said Lowe, who was 4-4 in Big Ten duals this season. “I came out knowing I had nothing to lose; this was it.”

The match was just a part of what was a roller-coaster weekend for the Oak Grove, Mo., native who on paper wasn’t supposed to make the Minnesota traveling group to nationals.

Now, he’s going home to show what he can do.

The virtually unknown 125-pounder didn’t have the best start to the Big Ten wrestling tournament Saturday morning. After a bye in the first round, Lowe put up a fight to begin his bout with Purdue’s top-seeded Chris Fleeger. But Fleeger took control as the bout wore on en route to an 11-3 major decision win.

Lowe was then thrown into the consolation round where he recorded his first pin as a Gophers wrestler matting Ohio State’s Nick Costello in 1:56.

As Lowe jumped up and down in celebration, all the coarse thoughts from earlier in the day had subsided.

“It’s a big thing for him but it gets the other guys going too,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “The whole idea of this tournament is to step up and maybe do something unexpected.”

When all the dust settled, Lowe secured himself a sixth-place finish in the tournament. Though he lost both his consolation round matches, he’s glad to be an unexpected part of the team’s quest for a third-straight NCAA crown.

Anderson withdraws

Ohio State 157-pounder Keaton Anderson, top seed in the tournament and in the nation, sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury during Saturday’s action and was pulled out of the tournament.

Buckeyes coach Russ Hellickson said no matter what, Anderson will be at nationals.

“I’d say it’s a pretty severe injury,” Hellickson said. “But in no way am I going to deprive the No. 1 wrestler, a senior, a chance to wrestle in the NCAAs.”

And the winner is

Several awards were handed out at the completion of the championships.

Penn State coach Troy Sunderland was named coach of the year after guiding the Lions to a third-place finish and qualifying eight wrestlers for nationals.

Meanwhile, Iowa heavyweight Steve Mocco was named wrestler of the year, Fleeger was wrestler of the championships after winning the weight, and Michigan State 125-pounder Nick Simmons was the freshman of the year.

Wild cards

In addition to the 70 Big Ten wrestlers heading to Kansas City by finishing in the top seven of their class, the conference will send two wild-card wrestlers.

The 11 coaches voted, and Wisconsin’s Ed Gutnick (149) and Purdue’s Clovis Crane (157) will make the trip.