EAST LANSING, Mich. – Senior Nick Simmons became just the sixth Spartan in school history to win three Big Ten titles as he beat sixth-seeded Andrae Hernandez of Indiana, 6-4, in the championship match at 133 pounds Sunday afternoon in the final session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. Simmons, a Williamston native, won his third straight title – his first at 133 pounds after claiming the 125-pound title the past two years – in front of his hometown crowd at the Breslin Center.
“It felt real good to get this win at home,” said Simmons, who becomes the first Spartan to win three straight Big Ten titles since David Morgan (1996-98). “Not many get a chance to wrestle for a Big Ten Championship at home, so it was a lot of fun. But now my focus is on the NCAA Championships. My goal is to work hard the next two weeks and prepare for nationals.”
Simmons got off to a quick start, recording a takedown 14 seconds into the match, and rode out Hernandez the remainder of the first period. Simmons extended his lead to 4-0 with a reversal at the 1:30 mark in the second, and once again held Hernandez down the rest of the way. After a stalling warning assessed to Simmons 30 seconds into the third, Hernandez got on the board with a reversal, but Simmons escaped to make it 5-2. Although Hernandez cut the lead to 5-4 with a late reversal, it wasnâ€™t enough to overcome the top seed, as Simmons notched a riding-time point (3:21) for the 6-4 victory. With the win, Simmons improved his career record to 14-1 at the Big Ten Championships.
In the team standings, No. 1 Minnesota won its second consecutive Big Ten Championship, earning 156 points, including four first-place finishes. Wisconsin finished second with 99.5 points, while Iowa came in third with 91 points.
In the 141-pound bracket, third-seeded Andy Simmons got off to a great start on the afternoon, beating top-seeded Manuel Rivera of Minnesota, 8-2, in the consolation semifinals. Rivera entered the tournament undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation, but lost two matches at the Big Ten Championships to place fifth. Andy fell behind on an early takedown, 2-0, however, he held off Rivera the rest of the match and rattled off seven straight points and riding time in the impressive win.
Simmons advanced to the third-place match, where he had to face Iowaâ€™s Alex Tsirtsis for the second time in the tournament. Tsirtsis edged Andy in the quarterfinal round, 2-1, and again came out on top with a 6-0 decision. After a scoreless first, Tsirtsis reversed Simmons midway through the second and tacked on near-fall points as time expired in the second. He added a riding-time point for the 6-0 win.
Nick and Andy Simmons will both wrestle in the NCAA Championships, held March 15-17 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Props to Ben Phlegar MSU SID.