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By Andy Ross, Big Ten Beat Writer
The 2016 Men’s Big Ten Championships begin this week in West Lafayette, Indiana on the campus of Purdue University. Michigan returns as five-time defending champions. The target is on Michigan’s back as the rest of the conference is trying to play catchup. It will be a fun, intense meet as always, and here are a few races you will not want to miss.
Matt Hutchins of Wisconsin shocked everybody when he tracked down Michigan’s Anders Nielsen and upset him for the win last year. Nielsen is probably not rested fully, putting full emphasis on NCAAs and whatever meet he will need to qualify for the Danish Olympic Team, but he will be tough to beat. Hutchins has already been 4:15 this year and will not be taking anyone by surprise this time around. The race is expected to come down between Hutchins and Nielsen, but Indiana has Max Irwin and Jackson Miller ranked in the top eight that could possibly challenge for the title.
200 Free Relay
This relay is such a hit-or-miss event every year in every meet ever. Indiana has the fastest time this season. Michigan is the defending champion and has the best sprinter in the country in Paul Powers. Minnesota also has one of the best sprinters in the conference in Daryl Turner. Purdue will be in its home pool and has an outside chance to upset in their home territory. Ohio State and Iowa will also be battling for the win in that relay.
Matt McHugh of Ohio State has the fastest time of anyone this year in the Big Ten as he is the defending champion in the event. Iowa’s Jerzy Twarowski also has a chance to win the title and Minnesota’s Daryl Turner will be tough to beat as well. In fact, seven of the eight finalists from last year return. You can also never rule out Michigan’s Aaron Whitaker, who finished second last year. The winner will probably be sub-46 seconds and the race will be fun to watch.
Michigan’s Anders Nielsen will have his hands full with Indiana’s Blake Pieroni. Nielsen and Pieroni were 1:49s at the AT&T Winter Nationals long course with Pieroni getting the upper hand. This race will be hard to predict because of uncertainty with how swimmers will rest, but this matchup will be fun to watch.
Purdue’s best chance for a conference title at home will come from Sophomore Marat Amaltdinov in the 200 breast. Amaltdinov was third last year behind graduated teammate Lyam Dias and current Indiana senior Tanner Kurz. Amaltdinov and Kurz are expected to be the front runners in the 200 breast as they are the only ones that have been under 1:55 this season. Iowa’s Roman Trussov is also expected to challenge.
The meet begins February 24 at 6:30 p.m. EST with the 200 medley and 800 free relay and will continue through Saturday. The meet will be streamed on BTN2Go with an active BTN Plus subscription.