WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUNDUP: Peppers ready for 2014
GREEN BAY -- Julius Peppers says he feels just fine, despite a sub-par season last year. The Green Bay Packers' new pass rusher was a big hit yesterday, when the Pack held its first O-T-A practice. The 34-year-old Peppers is an eight-time Pro Bowler who was cut by Chicago for salary cap purposes. The Packers snapped him up less than a day after that. They signed him to a three-year deal in the wake of his lowest 2013 sack total since 2007, when he had a career-low two-and-a-half sacks with Carolina. Peppers said he felt fine last season -- and while circumstances surrounding the Bears affected him, he said his body feels great now. He's being groomed as an outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. Peppers, a long-time defensive end, said it's not much of a change -- except for dropping back a little. Inside linebacker A-J Hawk says he doesn't see anything to indicate that Peppers has lost a step. After seeing Peppers fly around the field yesterday, Hawk said the veteran "runs like he's 18." Since Peppers' rookie year of 2002, he's second in the N-F-L with 118-and-a-half career sacks. Propping up the defense is a top priority for Packers' coach Mike McCarthy. That was after the defense sagged late last season, while quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out with a shoulder injury.
The Milwaukee Brewers have opened up a three-game lead in the National League Central division. The Brewers were off yesterday, while second-place Saint Louis lost at home to San Francisco 6-to-5. Milwaukee upped its lead by a game-and-a-half this week, after taking 2-of-3 in an Interleague home series against Baltimore. The Crew will open a three-game set tonight at Miller Park against the last-place Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies were also off yesterday. They're 19-and-32, eleven-and-a-half games behind Milwaukee in the Central. The Brewers' offense is finally coming to life, after cooling down in early May. They've had at least 10 hits in a season-high eight consecutive games. Milwaukee is 12-and-14 this month, after a hot 18-and-6 start in April. Injuries have forced manager Ron Roenicke to shuffle his lineup, with Carlos Gomez going from the leadoff spot to clean-up in the absence of Aramis Ramirez. Jean Segura has played seven straight games at the top of the batting order, and Ryan Braun -- who's still dealing with his right rib-cage injury -- was moved from third to second to provide some power behind Segura. Right-hander Marco Estrada will start for Milwaukee tonight against Cubs' left-hander Travis Wood -- who has won four straight games in May.
The Milwaukee Bucks' new owners received a big welcome last night by fans at a downtown bar. Hundreds showed up at McGillycuddy's to shake hands with Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, the New York hedge fund owners who bought the Bucks from Herb Kohl this month. Lasry took note of his sudden celebrity status in Milwaukee. As he put it, "Everybody has been super-nice. It's not anything we've ever been used to. Pretty much nobody knows who you are, and then you come here and everybody is thanking you for helping the city." Lasry thanked hundreds of Bucks' fans for their generosity -- and the ideas they provided for Milwaukee's Number-two pick in next month's N-B-A Draft. Some of the fans said they want Lasry and Edens to open their wallets on better players, just like Mark Attanasio did with the Brewers. Earlier in the day, the new Bucks' owners met with team officials and reporters. They said they would entertain 5-to-10 local investors. They toured the Miller-Coors brewery. On a radio show, Lasry challenged President Obama to a one-on-one game of basketball -- and he said he'd invite former President Bill Clinton to the Bucks' home opener.
Bucks' scouting director Billy McKinney says the team has not set up any auditions yet with the three top candidates for next month's N-B-A Draft. E-S-P-N says Kansas center Joel Embiid is waiting to see how a workout goes with Cleveland, the team with the top pick. He'll then decide if he wants to give the Bucks a workout. Bucks' personnel saw Embiid and Duke forward Jabari Parker at a workout put on in Los Angeles last week. They've seen game films but nothing else from Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins. The Bucks won the Number-two pick in last week's Draft Lottery. At the time, general manager John Hammond said he was encouraged that none of the top prospects had said they did not want to play in Milwaukee. For now, the Bucks are focusing on candidates for their three second round draft selections. Six players auditioned yesterday, including Syracuse forward C-J fair and Nevada point guard Deonte Burton.
The new Marquette men's basketball coach is getting his first look at his new players. Nine Golden Eagles are enrolled in summer school, where they're taking part in an eight-week summer practice program under coach Steve Wojciechowski. The only no-shows are forward Sandy Cohen, who's wrapping up his high school obligations at Seymour -- and point guard Matt Carlino, who's in the process of transferring from B-Y-U. Wojciechowski, a former Duke assistant, says his new players are embracing him and his staff -- and the way they want to get ready to play. He says there's been a terrific enthusiasm among the group. Wojo has 11 players under scholarship -- two less than the N-C-A-A's limit. He says he might bring in a new scholarship player or a walk-on -- but for now, he's comfortable with what he has. Wojciechowski lost three players recruited by former coach Buzz Williams. One of them, center Satchel Pierce, ended up going with Williams to Virginia Tech. Wojciechowski said he wants players who want to be at Marquette -- and if he has to twist their arms, they're not the right fit.
In golf, Pewaukee native Mark Wilson is tied for 11th after the opening round of the P-G-A's Memorial Tournament in Dublin Ohio. Wilson shot a three-under-par 69 yesterday at Muirfield Village. Steve Stricker of Madison is at one-under-par 71, in a tie for 28th. Rory McIlroy has a three-stroke lead at nine-under-63.
Wisconsin senior Mohammed Ahmed took seventh place in the men's ten-thousand meter semi-finals at the N-C-A-A West Regional track meet in Fayetteville Arkansas. He finished his run last night in 29-minutes, 35-point-29 seconds to advance to the national finals in the event. Wisconsin juniors Alex Hatz and Austin Mudd both advanced to the quarter-finals of the 15-hundred meters, in their quest for a second bid to the national meet. U-W Milwaukee's Jordan Schmidt advanced to Saturday's finals of the 400-meter hurdles. He placed second in his heat with a school-record time of 51-point-32 seconds -- busting the old mark by one-point-six seconds. In women's regional competition, Molly Hanson of the Badgers advanced to the quarter-finals of her 15-hundred-meter event.
Some of the nation's best freestyle wrestlers will compete in Madison this weekend for spots on Team U-S-A at the World Championships in September. The Junior World Team Trials are set for today at the Alliant Energy Center. Men's and women's freestyle auditions will take place tomorrow and Sunday. Among those hoping to make the women's squad is Tomahawk native Alyssa Lampe, who became the first girl to win a medal at the state boys' high school wrestling finals in 2006. The 26-year-old Lampe now lives in Colorado Springs, where the U-S Olympic Training Center is located. She won the 105-and-a-half-pound weight division at the U-S Open last month, so she gets a bye to the best-of-three finals tomorrow night. Other Wisconsin wrestlers competing this weekend include the Badgers' Connor Medbery at 275 pounds -- former Badgers' standout Andrew Howe -- and Port Washington's Alex Dieringer, who won a national collegiate title at Oklahoma State. They all hope to make the field for the World meet in Uzbekistan September 8th-through-14th.