By SETH SCHWARTZ
Illinois Matmen

An effective offense and proper mindset frequently translates to getting your hand raised.

Controlling the action, Illinois’ Emery Parker put up a convincing 8-2 decision over Nate Jackson Saturday night at the Sears Centre, in Hoffman Estates, at the 55th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships.

“When I am not thinking about rankings or anything and just wrestle and stay offensive, things go well,” said Emery (184), who was 1-3 going into the match against Jackson, a two-time All-American at Indiana, who was wrestling unattached as a Princeton assistant coach. “I am always looking for ways to score and to get guys in different positions.”

Getting a taste of Nationals is an awakening for being at peak performance, mentally and physically. In his first full season as a starter last year, Parker beat Ohio State’s defending national champion Miles Martin, but got pinned by Iowa’s Sam Brooks and then lost to Jackson in the wrestleback.

A runner up at 165 pounds for Warren High School and fourth place at Senior Nationals, Parker’s light resume didn’t register with college coaches as only Eastern Michigan expressed interest. But Illini assistant Mike Poeta, who had worked with him for two years at Poeta Training Center in Libertyville, Il., knew Parker possessed placer makeup.

“For Emery to put it on Nate Jackson like he did; that’s a big confidence booster going into the second half of the season,” said Poeta. “Emery can beat anyone when he opens up his offense. He has the ability to be wrestling Saturday night at Nationals on ESPN.”

After minimal experience in the weight room, Parker was forced to keep pace with his teammates under strength coach Jim Zielinski.

“I was never in the environment where you had to lift with the intensity we have here and where you have to keep up with everyone,” said Parker, who grew an inch and filled out to his current weight. “Coach Zielinski is always pushing us and it’s been a huge help.”

A No. 3 seed, Parker beat second seeded Nick Gravina of Rutgers 2-1 in the semifinal.

“I think I am scoring in positions I am better at and trying to rack up more points,” said Parker, who was an academic All-American as a finance major last year. “Coach Poeta’s and my styles are similar on our feet. He’s taught me about hitting the right shots and being explosive in spurts.”

The Parker family has deep wrestling roots. Emery’s dad, Danny, and his eight brothers were part of the powerhouse teams in the late 1960s and early 70s at North Chicago High School. Phil Parker was a finalist and three-time All-American (134) at Iowa State 1970-72. He coached at Ventura Junior College in California 1976-79, and then head coach at Washington State. Graduating in 1978, Danny went to California to wrestle for his brother and then to Illinois State. Adley also wrestled at Iowa State 1980-83. Brothers Lonnie and Bart competed at Northern Illinois. During high school Lonnie wrestled Dom Poeta [Mike’s dad, who was at Highland Park]; Phil grappled against Lucca Poeta [Dom’s brother].

Brucki brothers take fifth

Princeton freshman Patrick Brucki continues to prove he’s on par with the best in the 197 pound class. A No. 11 seed, Brucki dropped a 5-2 decision to Iowa’s No. 3 seed Cash Wilke in the quarterfinals and Wilke went on to take first.

Rebounding in the wrestleback, Brucki responded with an impressive 7-4 decision over No. 2 seed Jacob Smith of West Virginia, who is ranked No. 5 nationally. He lost to top-seeded and No. 8 ranked Nate Rotert of South Dakota State 6-4, but beat No. 7 seed Jake Warner 4-2 for fifth. Warner, who was wrestling unattached for Iowa, was pinned by Wilke in the semifinal at 7:25.

“It’s nice being on the podium, but there’s no reason I couldn’t finish higher,” said Brucki. “The main thing is that I put it all out there.”

Princeton Coach Chris Ayres knows Brucki and company have the Tigers, who placed eighth, on the winning path.

“The Midlands is a pressure tournament just like Nationals,” said Ayres. “Patrick’s been very receptive to using what we’ve been teaching him in practice. He’s one of our hardest workers and is always pushing the pace.”

Central Michigan’s Christian Brucki (174) kept up with his younger brother. Brucki lost to Michigan’s Garrett Sutton 8-6 in the quarterfinals, but pinned Sutton at 5:53 for fifth.

Former Sandburg coach Eric Siebert watched the Midlands action and expects Patrick Brucki’s progression to be considerable.

“Going against grown men who understand strategy, situations, when to score, how to work the referee; is a lot for a freshman to go up against,” said Siebert, who was a runner up [1997] and national champion in 1998 at 150 for the Illini. “As time goes on, he will improve more than the rest of the field. The new experiences force you to think outside the box you were used to working in, in high school. As a wrestler, you experience new things and collect information from as many coaches as possible and build that into the competitor you want to be. Patrick being young, learning from the [Princeton] staff they have, will be nothing but a positive thing.

“He’s placed himself in a large group of guys with the potential to be All-Americans which is so hard as a freshman. It’s cutthroat [at Nationals]; expect the unexpected.

“You have to win tough matches and put three-days together in March to get on the [medal] stand. Patrick and Christian are very capable of achieving that and I will be excited to be there watching them.”

Midlands Placers from Illinois

5th @ 133 – Dylan Duncan (Illinois) – Montini Catholic
7th @ 141 – Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) – Chicago Mt. Carmel
7th @ 149 – Austin O’Connor (North Carolina) – St. Rita
8th @ 157 – Larry Early (Old Dominion) – Oak Park River Forest
5th @ 174 – Christian Brucki (Central Michigan) – Carl Sandburg
6th @ 174 – Garrett Sutton (Michigan) – Richmond-Burton
1st @ 184 – Emery Parker (Illinois) – Warren Township
2nd @ 184 – Nate Jackson (Princeton Wrestling Club) – Marian Catholic
3rd @ 184 – Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan) – Plainfield Central
3rd @ 197 – Christian Brunner (Purdue) – Dundee-Crown
5th @ 197 – Pat Brucki (Princeton) – Carl Sandburg
6th @ 197 – Jacob Warner (Iowa) – Washington