EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Columbia wrestling team tallied a trio of first-place finishes, as well as a fourth and fifth-place showing Sunday at the Michigan State Open. Seniors Steve Santos, Jake O'Hara and Stephen West all secured draw titles, while Chad Ryan and Austin Coniker finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Michigan State Open, one of the largest and most prestigious pre-conference opens in the nation, featured wrestlers from 29 schools, competing in both freshmen/sophomore and open draws.
"I am really happy with the performance out of those three seniors," commented Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling Carl Fronhofer after the tournament. "We wrestled really well and got some great wins today. It's obvious that these three guys are leading our team inside the practice facility and in the competition arena, so it was great to see the positive results. Coniker and Ryan also performed well, placing in their respective draws."
In the 149 pound open draw, Santos, ranked 15th in the nation by Intermat, began the day with a dominant 11-0 major decision over Alex Griffin from Purdue. Jonatan Rivera from Notre Dame (Ohio) was next to fall victim to Santos, dropping a 9-2 decision to move the Columbia senior onto the semifinals. Santos' last two opponents en route to the title both wrestled for Edinboro. In the semifinals, Mike Depalma went down via a 7-3 decision, before Santos edged No. 17 Dave Habat, 5-4, to claim first place.
No. 15 O'Hara took a similar route to the 157 pound open draw title, winning his first match by major decision and then winning the next three by decision. O'Hara opened the tournament with a 12-3 major decision over Purdue's Dustin Schultz before topping Kent State's T.J. Keklak with a 3-1 decision to reach the semifinals. Central Michigan's Lucas Smith challenged O'Hara in the semifinals, but eventually succumbed, 6-4, to O'Hara. In the finals, the host school was represented by Ryan Watts, but O'Hara was able to dispatch his opponent with a 3-1 decision.
West took the longest route to his title in the 174 pound open draw, winning five matches, including two pins and a major decision. West began the 2012-13 campaign with back-to-back pins over Central Michigan's Taylor Schuck and Michigan State's Kevin Nash. Ohio's Michael Duckworth fell in the quarterfinals by way of major decision, 10-2, to West, setting up a semifinals matchup with Jake Davis. West continued his impressive day against Eastern Michigan's Davis, shutting him out for a 6-0 decision. In the final round, Michigan's Jordan Wohlfert gave West his toughest challenge of the day, but Columbia once again came out on top with a 3-1 decision.
Back in the 157 pound open draw, Columbia's Ryan made his way to a fourth-place finish. In the back draw, Ryan knocked off Kent State's Mallie Shuster 11-4 and then followed that win up with a major decision over Ohio State's Tim Rigel, 12-3. Ryan earned a spot in the third-place match with a pin of Northwestern's Ben Sullivan in 1:52.
Coniker was the fifth Lion to place in East Lasing, claiming fifth in the 174 pound freshmen/sophomore draw. The first-year from Pittsburgh, Pa. started Sunday off with a 16-2 major decision over Spencer Blatz from Manchester and then took down Kyle Koziel from Notre Dame (Ohio) with a 3-1 decision. After falling in the semifinal, Coniker moved to the back draw where he defeated Kent State's Mike Vollant with a 4-2 decision to secure fifth-place.
Columbia returns to the mat Saturday, Nov. 17 at the New York State Championships in Ithaca, N.Y.
Michigan State Open Place-winners (Top 6)
174 pounds - Austin Coniker (First-year, Fifth)