Lackey Wins NCAA Wrestling Title

Senior Matt Lackey won his first NCAA Title as he defeated Troy Letters of Lehigh Saturday afternoon.
Senior Matt Lackey won his first NCAA Title as he defeated Troy Letters of Lehigh Saturday afternoon.

March 22, 2003

He finished third in 2001, second in 2002 and now finally University of Illinois senior wrestler Matt Lackey becomes the NCAA Champion at 165 pounds with his 6-3 win over the second-seed Troy Letters of Lehigh, Saturday afternoon at Kemper Arena to help lead the Illini to their seventh Top-10 finish under head coach Mark Johnson. Lackey is also the seventh NCAA Champion during the Johnson era as well. The squad took ninth with 53 points and two All-Americans - Lackey and freshman Alex Tirapelle who made the NCAA finals in his first season in the lineup.

Lackey (Moline, Ill.) finishes the season with an unblemished 38-0 record and 120-14 mark for his career. With 120 wins, he ties former Illini NCAA Champion Steve Marianetti for fourth on the school's all-time win list.

" I feel so relieved right now," Lackey said. "You work so hard during the year to stay undefeated and accomplish your goals and now I am just going to sit back and enjoy this."

Lackey jumped on the board first with a takedown at the 2:02 mark of the first period, leading 2-1 after one. He took the down position to start the second and took only seven seconds to reverse Letters to increase his lead, 4-1. After two more escapes by Letters, Lackey's lead diminished to one-point. With only 21 seconds remaining in the match, Lackey used an impressive foot sweep which shocked Letters and landed him on his back for the insurance two points he needed in the 6-3 decision.

The Illini did have a shot at two national champs this season as Tirapelle made the finals as a freshman. The last time Illinois had as many in the finals was in 2001 with Adam Tirapelle (149) and John Lockhart (Hwt) winning titles and Pat Quirk (197) placing second.

Tirapelle (Clovis, Calif.) faced the sixth-seed Ryan Bertin of Michigan in the 157-pound finals, falling 7-3 to the sophomore in what was the rubber match between the two wrestlers this season. Bertin got takedowns in each of the three periods and added riding time for the win.

Oklahoma State took the team title with 143 points, 38.5 better than defending national champions Minnesota who are the runners-up. The Big Ten placed five teams in the Top-10 this season with Penn State taking sixth, Michigan seventh and Iowa eighth.

1ST Period: 2:02 Lackey takedown (2-0); 1:43 Letters escape (2-1); Lackey leads 2-1, 0:22 riding time.
2nd Period: Lackey chooses bottom; 1:53 Lackey reversal (4-1); 1:44 Letters escape (4-2); Lackey leads 4-2, 0:26 riding time.
3rd Period: Letters chooses bottom; 1:55 Letters escape (4-3); 0:21 Lackey takedown (6-3); Lackey wins 6-3.

1ST Period: 1:32 Bertin takedown (0-2); Bertin leads 2-0, 1:32 riding time
2nd Period: Tirapelle chooses bottom; 1:58 Tirapelle escape (1-2); 1:28 Bertin takedown (1-4); 0:33 Tirpelle escape (2-4); 0:28 Bertin takedown (2-6); Bertin leads 6-2, 2:57 riding time.
3rd Period: Bertin chooses neutral; stalling point Tirapelle (3-6); Bertin wins 7-3 (with riding time)

1. Oklahoma State - 143.0
2. Minnesota - 104.5
3. Oklahoma - 78.0
4. Lehigh - 69.0
5. Arizona State - 65.0
6. Penn State - 62.0
7. Michigan - 58.0
8. Iowa - 57.5
9. Illinois - 53.0
10. Cornell - 52.0

**NCAA Champion and All-American**
165: #1-seed Matt Lackey (Sr., Moline, Ill.) 38-0

1st Round: Dec. Leighton Brady (Boston U), 13-6
2nd Round: Dec. Oscar Santiago (Purdue), 4-2
Quarterfinals: Dec. Matt R. King (Edinboro), 6-1
Semifinals: Dec. #4-seed Jacob Volkmann (Minnesota), 6-3
NCAA Finals: Dec. #2-seed Troy Letters (Lehigh), 6-3

**NCAA Finalist and All-American**
157: #9-seed Alex Tirapelle (Fr., Clovis, Calif.), 33-8

1st Round: Dec. Tim Foley (Virginia), 3-1
2nd Round: Dec. Jim Medeiros (Fresno State), 4-3
Quarterfinals: Dec. #1-seed Luke Becker (Minnesota), 2-1 TB
Semifinals: Dec. #4-seed Scott Owen (Northern Illinois), 5-1
NCAA Finals: Lost to #6-seed Ryan Bertin (Michigan), 7-3