Waiting game begins for at-large bids

Kurt GibsonâÄôs legendary walk-off home run for the Dodgers in game one of the 1988 World Series spent about 1/1000th of a second on his bat. Trent Tucker heaved his game-winning three-pointer âÄî one that prompted an NBA rule change âÄî for the Knicks in 1990 after an inbound with just three tenths of a second remaining on the game clock. ThatâÄôs how quickly things can change in the sports world. If the tide swings oneâÄôs way, euphoria ensues. If it doesnâÄôt, devastation. Gordon Bierschenk is all too aware. His 197-pound match against IowaâÄôs Chad Beatty in the consolation semifinals of the Big Ten wrestling championships was knotted 3-3 late in the final period, but in the closing moments, everything fell apart . âÄúI wrestled really well until the last 10 seconds,âÄù Bierschenk said. With four seconds remaining, Beatty notched a takedown and two-point near-fall in quick succession for a 6-3 win and a berth in the consolation finals . In a flash, Bierschenk found himself in the fifth-place match; his hopes of an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament dashed; his chances for an at-large berth slim. Under new NCAA qualifying guidelines, automatic berths are allocated to each conference based on its wrestlersâÄô Division I winning percentage, rating percentage index (RPI) and coaches ranking. The NCAA announced on Thurs, Feb. 26 that for each wrestler meeting two of three thresholds âÄî .725 winning percentage, top 28 in the RPI and top 28 in the coaches poll âÄî his conference was allotted an automatic qualifier for the national tournament . Based on the criteria, the Big Ten, which was awarded 61 of the 278 automatic qualifying spots, received four spots at BierschenkâÄôs weight class (197) . That means the top four finishers from the Big Ten tournament will be competing in St. Louis on March 19-21 . That also means a win over Beatty would have put Bierschenk in the national tournament. Instead, he awaits the decision of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee, which hands down his weight classâÄô six at-large bids today . âÄúIt really burns you to be that close and let it slip out of your fingers,âÄù Bierschenk said. âÄúIâÄôm really not expecting to get it. IâÄôve pretty much convinced myself âÄî IâÄôm 95 percent sure that IâÄôm not going to get it âĦ If IâÄôd gotten fifth, it would be a little bit different of a situation.âÄù But Bierschenk was a defeated man in the fifth-place match. PurdueâÄôs Logan Brown dominated and handed him a 10-4 loss. âÄúI just wasnâÄôt even up to the next match,âÄù Bierschenk said, âÄúkind of got my [butt] handed to me there.âÄù Bierschenk will be evaluated by the selection committee based on the NCAAâÄôs new Bronze Standard qualifications, which include a .700 Division I winning percentage, a top 33 RPI ranking, a top 33 coaches ranking (as of 2/23/09), a .700 winning percentage against all competition, one win against a wrestler receiving automatic qualification, and a qualifying event placement one below automatic qualification. Junior Matt Everson and redshirt freshman Sonny Yohn await news of the at-large bids as well. Both men took seventh at the Big Ten tournament, Everson at 174 and Yohn at 184. But Bierschenk reiterates that chances are slim. âÄúWe have a lot of stuff stacked against us, a lot more than we have going for us,âÄù he said. âÄúOur records are iffy and we havenâÄôt beaten a lot of top guys.âÄù Still, the Gophers will send at least five men to the NCAA tournament. Redshirt freshman Zach Sanders (125), sophomore Mike Thorn (141) and Ben Berhow (Hwt), junior Jayson Ness (133), and senior Tyler Safratowich (157) all earned automatic berths with their finishes at last weekendâÄôs championships. Though Safratowich is excited for the national tournament, he empathizes with Bierschenk, Everson and Yohn. A year ago, he was up for an at-large bid and wasnâÄôt chosen. âÄúIt sucks,âÄù he said. âÄúYouâÄôre waiting on other people to make a choice for you âĦ they went out and wrestled hard and hopefully they get a chance. ItâÄôs never good when you leave it up to someone else but they did all they could and now itâÄôs up to a higher power.âÄù