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Keeping up with ... Naperville North's Eric Tannenbaum
It's apparent how lofty Eric Tannenbaum's expectations are when the Michigan wrestler is asked how his senior year has gone.
"There have been some ups and downs; I've had two losses," the Naperville North product said in the days before he won his second career Big Ten individual title at 165 pounds over the weekend. "I've stayed healthy and pretty focused."
Most would be ecstatic with a 143-23 career record and 31 wins in 33 matches this year, but Tannenbaum isn't just any wrestler.
At Naperville North he won three Illinois Class AA state titles, in addition to a second-place trophy as a sophomore in 2001. He also claimed the Big Ten title at 149 as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and is a three-time All-American.
That's all in the past. Now Tannenbaum is focused on the only acceptable way to end his career.
"My goal is to win the national championship," said Tannenbaum, who has finished fourth twice and sixth once in his three previous trips to the national meet, which this year takes place in St. Louis March 20-22. "I could be 0-20 and if I won the national championship, I'd be happy."
In the weekend's Big Ten tournament, he squared his career mark at two wins apiece against rival and defending national champion Mark Perry of Iowa. His 3-2 decision Sunday afternoon reversed a 5-2 Perry decision in last year's Big Ten final. The triumph also avenged a 4-1 loss to Perry in the duo's most recent meeting on Jan. 13 at the Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a bout that Tannenbaum entered ranked No. 1 in the nation.
"I assumed I would win (the match in January) and it was entirely my fault that I lost," said Tannenbaum, who stood third nationally at 165 in the latest weekly NWCA/Intermat Rankings. "I didn't push the pace of the match enough."
Recognized as one of the fastest wrestlers on his feet, Tannenbaum can remember being taken down five times in the last two years.
"I'm pretty solid when I'm wrestling on my feet," he said. "When I was younger, it was always something I focused on. Takedowns are such a key to a match."
To his advantage as he prepares for nationals, Tannenbaum had a light academic load with just one class this semester. He's spent the extra time at the gym.
"It's allowed me to do more of the little things," he said. "I've gone over a lot of tape and I've been able to do some things in the morning, like get in extra sprints, instead of meeting with a tutor or studying."
He'll earn a degree in Neuroscience the spring and will enroll in Michigan's prestigious medical school in the fall. He hopes to pursue a career as an orthopaedic surgeon.
"My dream job would be to become the orthopaedic surgeon for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) but I'd also like to work for a professional sports team," said Tannenbaum.
With medical school on the horizon, Tannenbaum knows his wrestling career likely is nearing its end. Although there's a chance he could pursue the Olympics or a spot on the national team, his academic commitments won't leave him much free time to wrestle, which will be a big adjustment for someone who's been on the mat since he was 8 years old.
"I can't remember the last time in my life I wasn't wrestling," Tannenbaum said. "Next year will be weird not wrestling."
For now, however, his focus is entirely on the present and his national championship quest.
"It's the last goal I haven't accomplished," he said. "I'm not even thinking about not winning it all."
Besides Tannenbaum, the Big Ten meet featured six other Chicagoans, all of whom compete at Illinois and Northwestern. The only other titleist was Illinois senior Mike Poeta (Highland Park), who was victorious at 157 pounds with an 8-2 decision over Penn State's Dan Vallimont. It was the first Big Ten individual crown for Poeta, who came into the meet ranked second in the nation.
One of Poeta's teammates, sophomore Jimmy Kennedy, (Grant) notched a second-place finish at 133, improving on the fourth-place medal he earned last year. He was top-seeded and ranked third in the nation coming in but lost the title match to Michigan State's Franklin Gomez.
Also standing out in the meet was Northwestern senior Mike Tamillow (Fenwick). Although he failed to defend his conference title at 197 pounds, he finished second by virtue of a 3-2 decision in the finals to Penn State's Phil Davis. Like Poeta, Tamillow came into the meet ranked second nationally.
Illinois sophomore John Dergo (Morris) finished fifth at 174 and junior Roger Smith-Bergsrud (Lake Forest) was sixth at 165.
Rounding out the Chicago-area products was Northwestern sophomore Brandon Precin (Sandburg), who duplicated his seventh-place conference finish at 125 from a year ago. The finish was a disappointment, as he came into the meet ranking fifth in the country in his weight class.
The top local individuals at the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Tournament at Kent State over the weekend were Northern Illinois teammates Pat Castillo (Lyons Township) and Bryan O'Connor (Glenbard North). Castillo, a fifth-year senior, won the title at 133 pounds, with a 5-4 win over Kent State's Danny Mitcheff, while O'Connor turned in a third-place effort at 157 after dropping a 2-0 decision to Buffalo's Pat Lloyd. Their efforts helped the Huskies to a third-place finish in the team race behind Central Michigan and the host Golden Flashes.
Castillo, who won the conference meet at 125 last year and was second as a sophomore in 2006, was named the tournament's Oustanding Wrestler for the second straight year.
Second-ranked Central Michigan's seventh straight MAC tournament title was aided by the work of two former Chicagoland grapplers -- junior Eric Kruger (Sandburg) and sophomore Conor Beebe (Montini).
Kruger, who currently ranks 13th in the nation at 141 pounds, failed to defend his individual MAC title at that class, dropping to fourth-place Saturday with a 2-1 loss to Ohio's Germaine Lindsey. His record for the season now stands at 23-8. While at Sandberg, Kruger, a 2007 national qualifier, became the school's all-time leader with 142 career wins.
Beebe, wrestling at 133, duplicated his third-place MAC finish from a year ago by falling to Mitcheff, 4-2 in the second-place bout. He advanced to that match with a 10-2 major decision over Ohio's Quentin Keyes. For the season, Beebe's record now stands at 20-15 and, like Kruger, he's eligible for a wild-card bid to the NCAA Championships, where Beebe participated as a redshirt freshman with one win in three bouts. He arrived at CMU after a prolific prep career that saw him win four straight individual Class A state titles in three different weight classes.
The Chippewas, who had all 10 of their wrestlers finish in the top four in each weight class over the weekend, had previously wrapped up their tenth straight regular season MAC crown.
Gonzaga junior guard Jeremy Pargo (Robeson) was named last Tuesday as the West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year. This year marks the eighth straight year that a Gonzaga standout has won the award.
He picked up additional hardware the next day, as he was chosen to the NABC All-District 14 second-team.
During the regular season, Pargo, a first-team All-WCC pick a year ago, led the league with 6.23 assists per game and his 11.8-point per game scoring average was 13th in the conference.
Heading into Monday night's WCC Tournament final against San Diego, he's second on the team in scoring and he also paces the Zags with 42 steals.
Pargo is the younger brother of New Orleans Hornets guard Jannero Pargo, who also attended Robeson. Jannero is playing a valuable role off the bench for the surging Hornets, averaging 8.4 points per game in only 18.9 minutes of action. In two games this past Friday and Saturday, which New Orleans (42-20) split, Pargo combined for (2 points/3 rebounds Friday)
Two local women's basketball players now playing in the Big Ten -- Northwestern center Amy Jaeschke (New Trier) and Michigan State guard Brittney Thomas (Bolingbrook) -- were named last week to the conference's All-Freshman Team.
Jaeschke becomes just the second freshman in program history to garner All-Freshman honors and was also named an All-Big Ten honorable mention pick by the conference's media members.
With the Wildcats (5-26) eliminated in the conference tournament on Thursday, Jaeschke finished her freshman year leading the team in scoring (13.5 points per game), rebounds (6.8) and blocked shots (51). Jaeschke accumulated those numbers despite sitting out nine games due to injury and led the team in scoring 12 times in her 22 games played and was the squad's leading rebounder on 11 occasions.
Thomas has started all 32 games this year for the Spartans (19-13) and heads into a possible WNIT run topping the squad in assists with 112 and ranking third on the team in scoring (7.6 points per game) and rebounds (5.2). She has led the team in scoring on four occasions and rebounds in six games, including five times since the end of January.
In MSU's two Big Ten Tournament games over the weekend, Thomas combined for 12 points, 13 rebounds and four assists but all of the points came in the Spartans' quarterfinal 56-51 win over Minnesota on Friday.
St. Louis University freshman pitcher Erin Kelly (Fenwick) is off to a fast start to her collegiate softball career.
On Feb. 25, she was named both the Atlantic 10 Conference's Pitcher and Rookie of the Week, becoming the first player in program history to win two league-wide honors in the same time period.
During the week for which she was honored, the righthander earned both of the Billikens' wins in relief. In a 7-2 in over Northern Colorado on Feb. 23, she pitched two hitless innings for the victory and the next day went the final five frames of a 6-4 win over Alcorn State. She allowed one earned run on two hits and struck out eight in that outing.
SLU's annual Billiken Classic was canceled over the weekend due to inclement weather but St. Louis (4-9) and Northern Illinois will try to salvage a re-scheduled doubleheader on Monday afternoon to open SLU's home season.
Heading into the two games with NIU, Kelly had earned all four of her team's wins on the year and had an ERA of 4.50, while appearaing in 11 of the squad's 13 games.
Although his team didn't have much success, Western Michigan junior right wing Patrick Galivan (Oak Park) was the Broncos' leading scorer this season. WMU's year ended over the weekend with two losses to Ferris State in CCHA first-round playoff action and Galivan ended the campaign with 31 points on eight goals and a team-high 23 assists. During the two losses over the weekend, his only point came on an assist in Friday's 4-3 overtime defeat.
Galivan led the Broncos (8-27-3) in shooting percentage last season (.269) as a sophomore and prior to arriving in Kalamazoo, he played played a year for the NAHL's Texarkana Bandits. In his only season with the club, he led the Bandits in scoring, with 30 goals and 32 assists in 52 games, helping him earn second-team All-NAHL honors.