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Former NU star qualifies for NCAA championships

By Brian Hamilton

Sports Editor

Purdue University’s wrestling program apparently has an impressive plethora of 165-pound grapplers from which to choose for the Boilermaker lineup.



And one of those wrestlers, who just so happens to hail from Nevada Union High School, showed just how deep that talent pool runs.

Yet on Sunday, less than a full week since he learned that he’d even be competing, former NU star Luke Manuel took third place in the Big Ten Championships held at Minneapolis, Minn.




“Honestly, I can’t say I was (expecting such a performance),” said Manuel, a redshirt freshman with the Boilers. “That’s because until a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t even in the lineup.

“I was told Tuesday that I’d be able to wrestle.”

And now he’s headed to the NCAA Championships in two weeks. Purdue University took 10th place in team scoring, which was won by the perennial powerhouse Iowa Hawkeyes.

“I’ve been going to a lot of open tournaments and also earlier this year got to get in some big 10 matches,” Manuel said. “There are three of us at 165 pounds. We’ve got a lot of depth. We’re all close to each other. But I’ve just been training like I am the starter.”

That approached appeared to work this weekend, when after starting the tournament with a 14-6 loss to Minnesota’s Tyler Safratowich, who was the No. 3 seed in the tournament. But after the setback, in front of Safratowich’s home crowd, Manuel ran off four straight wins to secure third place and the NCAA berth.

“It was pretty hard after losing that first one to the Minnesota kid in Minnesota, with something like 2,000 people cheering against you,” Manuel said. “But I matched up well against the Ohio State kid and after that I just got some confidence again and kid of relaxed and let it happen.”

That “Ohio State kid” was fourth-seed Colt Sponsella, against whom Manuel scored a 6-2 victory. That win was followed by another, this time a 5-3 verdict over Wisconsin’s Jake Donar.

In the consolation bracket semifinals, Manuel edged Indiana University’s Matt Coughlin, the sixth seed, by a 2-1 count. And for third place, Manuel won by that same score over Penn State’s Dave Rella – one point for riding time breaking a 1-1 tie.

Manuel, who said his spring break began this week, now has two weeks to prepare for the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

Manuel is the second former Nevada Union wrestler in two years to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Wade Sauer, a 2004 NU grad who won a California high school state championship, took sixth place in the heavyweight division of the 2007 championships.

Two weeks ago, Sauer sustained a neck injury that has sidelined him for the rest of his junior season at California State University, Fullerton.

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail bhamilton@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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