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Safratowich earns All-American honors

Tyler Safratowich

Tyler Safratowich had two main goals when he decided to wrestle at the University of Minnesota.

The first was to help the Gophers win a national title.

Safratowich fulfilled that goal in 2007 by going 2-2 in four tournament matches at 167 pounds as the U of M won the national title.

The second goal was to be an individual All-American.

The 2004 graduate of Park Rapids Area High School fulfilled that goal in his final opportunity Saturday by placing eighth at 157 pounds at the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at St. Louis.

Safratowich entered his second NCAA tournament ranked No. 17 in the nation with a 29-12 record.

In Thursday's first round, the U of M senior defeated No. 10-ranked Scott Winston of Rutgers 5-2. Winston opened the first period with a takedown before Safratowich countered with an escape. Safratowich took a 4-2 lead in the second period with an escape and takedown before sealing the win with a point for riding time in the third period. Winston entered the tournament with a 38-7 record.

Safratowich advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-4 win over No. 9-ranked Matt Moley of Bloomsburg in Thursday's second round. Safratowich opened with a takedown before Moley countered with an escape to end the first period. Moley tied the match with an escape early in the second period, but Safratowich took control with a takedown and nearfall for a 7-2 advantage. Moley had a takedown in the third period to end the scoring. Moley entered the tournament with a 31-5 record.

Friday's quarterfinals pitted Safratowich against No. 3-ranked Michael Poeta of Illinois. Poeta, who had a 13-0 record, used a pair of takedowns in the first period to build a 4-1 lead. Safratowich had a takedown in the second period, but two escapes by Poeta provided a 6-3 lead. Safratowich opened the third period with an escape, but two more takedowns by Poeta led to a 10-5 victory. That loss ended Safratowich's quest to be a national champion.

During Friday's wrestlebacks, Safratowich guaranteed himself All-American honors with a 6-4 victory over No. 8-ranked Adam Hall of Boise State. Safratowich opened with a takedown in the first period and used an escape early in the second period to build a 3-0 lead. Hall followed with a takedown, but an escape by Safratowich made it 4-2. An escape and a stalling point enabled Hall to tie the match at 4-4 in the third period, but Safratowich recorded a takedown as time expired to advance. Hall entered the tournament with a 31-4 record.

Safratowich was dropped into the seventh-place match with a 13-5 loss to No. 6-ranked Michael Chandler of Missouri. Chandler, who had a 27-6 record, opened the first period with a takedown and nearfall. After a reversal by Safratowich, Chandler closed the period with an escape and takedown for an 8-2 advantage. An escape by Safratowich provided the only scoring in the second period. Safratowich had a takedown early in the third period to close the gap to 9-5, but an escape and takedown by Chandler sealed the win. Chandler also received a point for riding time.

In Saturday's seventh-place match, Safratowich was defeated by Cal Poly's Chase Pemi 4-2 in overtime. After a scoreless first period, an escape gave Safratowich a 1-0 lead. Pemi opened the third period with a reversal to take the lead, but Safratowich escaped to tie the match. Pemi's takedown in overtime gave the nation's No. 11-rated wrestler seventh place. Pemi had a 22-7 record entering the tournament.

Top-ranked Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska capped off an undefeated season by defeating Poeta 5-1 in the championship match. No. 3-ranked Jordan Leen of Cornell defeated No. 4-rated Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro 4-0 for third place while Chandler edged Moley 2-1 for fifth place.

Safratowich ended his senior season with a 32-15 record to raise his career mark to 108-48. Safratowich ranks 26th all-time on the U of M career wins list. At Park Rapids, Safratowich was a three-time state champion and still holds the school record for wins at 146.

The Gophers tied for 14th place as a team with 35 points as Jayson Ness placed third at 133 and Zach Sanders finished sixth at 125. Iowa won the national title with 97.5 points.