Three Tigers advance in NCAA Tournament

Many close matches in early rounds.
Friday, March 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:43 a.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Jeremy Spates got a little help from a muscle cramp.

Spates (24-6) won at 149 pounds in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in St. Louis, defeating Oklahoma’s Jeff Ecklof 3-2.

With the match tied at 2 late in the third period, Spates was hoping to score a point for riding time. Ecklof gave him another option when he called his second time out of the match for a muscle cramp with 45 seconds left. When the match resumed, Spates took bottom position and escaped with 30 seconds left.

“When I broke him down I’m pretty good on top so I was thinking I’ll definitely ride him out from here,” Spates said. “I thought either way if he calls time out I go down and get out, and if not, I think I could have definitely rode him out.”

Cowboys on top

Oklahoma State leads the tournament after the first two rounds with 30 points. Illinois is in second with 28 ahead of Nebraska which has 25. Missouri in a three-way tie for 15th with 13 points.

Spates said he is glad to have a strong start after a poor performance at the Big 12 Conference Championship on March 6 in Ames, Iowa.

“It can’t get much better than that,” Spates said. “I’m real happy. Hopefully, I can keep it up tomorrow.”

Spates, who advanced to the quarterfinals, said the difference between winning and losing was mental.

“I know I’m good enough to do it,” Spates said. “I’ve just gotta step out there and do it. I think I’ve got myself in the right mindset now.”

On the right track

Redshirt freshman Ben Askren (30-4 at 174 pounds) and senior Kenny Burleson (33-4 at 157) will join Spates in the quarterfinals.

Askren barely wrestled Thursday. In the first round he received a bye, and in the second he pinned Penn’s Matt Herrington in 2:12. Askren said it will keep him fresh.

“It’s probably good. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the mat,” Askren said. “It’s a long tournament; 32-man brackets and everyone’s tough here.”

Herrington scored first, but Askren escaped and took him to his back. Then he had to squeeze.

“I held him there for the five count,” Askren said. “Then I started looking for the pin. He was real, real close and I just put more pressure on him and felt the pin.”

Burleson defeated Purdue’s Brad Harper 6-2 to stay in the championship bracket. Burleson controlled most of the match but had a close call in the end. As time wound down Harper almost rolled Burleson to his back.

Missouri coach Brian Smith said Burleson’s performance wasn’t unusual.

“Kenny just is Kenny,” Smith said. “He just keeps winning and winning. He knows how to keep up the pressure and hit the shots.”

Setbacks for Tiger duo

Redshirt freshman Matt Pell (29-11 at 184) started out strong winning his pigtail match 4-1 and his first round match 6-3 but lost in the second round. Pell’s loss came against Travis Frick from Lehigh 5-3. Smith said Pell wrestled well.

“The kid was real strong and held his head in,” Smith said. “He’s gonna come back real tough tomorrow.”

Frick took a 2-0 lead in the first period and in the second, after Pell escaped, Frick got another takedown to build a 4-1 lead. Pell escaped again before time ran out in the second and Frick escaped in the third.

Jeff Foust (24-10 at 197) lost his first round match to Ryan Bader from Arizona State 7-0. Foust rebounded nicely in the wrestlebacks, winning 3-2 against Harvard’s Reggie Lee.

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