EVANSTON In a season that almost never happened because of a horrific knee injury a year ago, Michigan”s Otto Olson amazed fans from around the country with yet another title: 174-pound Big Ten Champion.
“I”ve changed some things about my wrestling style, and I”m going out there and having fun,” Olson said. “I”m just doing what I have done for 18 years now.”
Olson claimed his first-ever Big Ten title. The accomplished senior finished third during his sophomore season, when he was the NCAA runner-up.
Last year, Olson had to watch the competition from the sidelines while nursing his potentially career-ending injury.
“Last year I was in tears watching these guys compete, and I wasn”t able to help,” Olson said.
Olson had a bye in the first round before recording his fastest fall of the season in 1:05 against Ryan Lewis of Wisconsin.
In the semifinals, Olson escaped with a 3-2 decision against Jacob Volkmann of Minnesota.
Olson faced sixth-seeded Ryan Hieber of Ohio State in the finals. Hieber upset second-seeded Gabe McMahan of Iowa in the semifinals.
“(Hieber is) a real good upper body greco wrestler. He”s got a lot of throws,” Olson said. “That”s how he won his semifinal match, and that”s why I was a little more cautious out there.”
Olson scored an early takedown in the match and never trailed en route to a 6-3 victory.
The usually ultra-intense Olson adopted a more laid-back attitude for the tournament. He could often be seen joking around with his teammates and cheering on other Wolverines while waiting for his matches. In the past, Olson would spend most of the time between bouts focusing his intensity for the rest of the day.
Even though he was unusually relaxed, Olson said that he was still very nervous before the final.
“Especially in the first period that”s when guys get nervous, or freeze up, and that”s when the other guy can get some offense going,” Olson said.
The No. 2 wrestler in the nation, Olson will look to continue his success at the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.
“I”m not going to sit back and be happy for this win,” Olson said. “That”s not my goal to be a Big Ten champion, but to be an NCAA champion.”