#15 Illini Defeat #9 Northwestern, 24-12
Feb. 9, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. --
"We had energy," said head coach Jim Heffernan. "I thought we wrestled hard and we wrestled better tonight. We were aggressive and we wrestled to score points. We had a little more purpose today and that's a good thing. There's a couple of situations where we need to do more. We still have a month to go and we'll keep getting better."
The dual started at 149, where John Fahy filled in for the injured #17 Caleb Ervin to take on #4 Jason Tsirtsis. Tsirtsis scored first with a takedown and acquired just under a minute of riding time before Fahy was able to escape. Tsirtsis notched another takedown with under 10 seconds left in the period to go up 4-1 going into the second. Fahy scored the only points of the second period, escaping from the bottom position halfway through the period, but Tsirtsis recorded an escape and a takedown in the third to claim the 7-2 victory.
At 157, #15 Zac Brunson faced Northwestern's Ben Sullivan. Brunson dominated the first period, recording two takedowns and two near-falls to take an early 9-1 lead. Brunson then started the second period on top and rode Sullivan for nearly a minute and a half before he was able to escape, making the score 9-2 after two periods. Sullivan started the third period with a takedown, but Brunson was able to quickly escape and hang on to win the 11-4 decision.
#10 Jackson Morse squared off against #7 Pierce Harger in the 165-pound matchup. Harger scored first, recording a takedown under a minute into the match, then notched three near-fall points before Morse was able to escape. Morse started the second in the bottom position and managed a quick escape, then recorded a takedown to pull within one point. However, Harger was awarded one point for a locked hands call before the period ended to make the score 6-4 going into the third. Harger scored three points in the third period, an escape and a takedown, and with the one-point riding time advantage won the 9-4 decision to give Northwestern a 6-3 lead.
Senior Tony Dallago wrestled at Huff Hall for the last time in his career, this time against the Wildcats' David Helmer. Dallago scored a couple of takedowns before turning Helmer and recording his 38th career pin, the most in program history. The Harrisburg, Pa. native is now Illinois' all-time leader in the category. His victory added six points to the team's overall score, giving the Illini a 12-6 lead.
"It's a great way to go out.," said Dallago. "I was trying to be aggressive and I felt good. I get excited when I get pins, so if it's there I try to go for it. It's also six points for the team which is nice."
"Tony breaking the pins record was awesome, especially the way it happened," said Heffernan. "He did it at home on Senior Day. I love watching him wrestle. He's exciting and he's fearless."
Nikko Reyes took on Jacob Berkowitz at 184 pounds, and scored the only points of the opening period with a takedown in the last 20 seconds. He then started the second period in the bottom position and managed a quick escape to make the score 3-0. Berkowitz escaped from the bottom position early in the third, but Reyes responded with a takedown. Berkowitz recorded one more escape, but Reyes held on to claim the 5-2 victory.
Northwestern got victories in the next two matchups, starting with the 197-bout between Jeff Koepke and #15 Alex Polizzi. Each wrestler scored a takedown and an escape in the first period, making the score 3-3 after one. Polizzi started the second period on bottom and was able to quickly escape before taking down Koepke. Koepke then turned Polizzi for a two-point reversal with under 10 seconds left in the second, making the score 6-5 going into he final period. Koepke started the third period on bottom and was able to escape after a minute and a half, but Polizzi held on and was awarded one point for riding time to claim the 7-6 victory. At heavyweight, top-ranked Mike McMullan defeated Christopher Lopez in a 4-0 decision to tie the score at 12-12.
At 125, #1 Jesse Delgado got off to a strong start against Garrison White, recording four takedowns, two three-point near-falls and a two-point near-fall to take an early 17-4 lead. After scoring a takedown early in the second, Delgado ended the match with a two-point reversal to claim the 21-5 tech. fall victory and give the Illini a 17-12 lead.
"Delgado is starting to look like himself again," said Heffernan. He's making progress and he's changed some things, he's scoring some different ways. When Jesse is moving like that, you can hardly watch him because he's so fast. He's getting to the point where he's back on."
#9 Zane Richards faced Dominick Malone in the 133 bout. Richards scored a takedown in the first few seconds, then rode out Malone for the remainder of the period. He started the second period in the bottom position and escaped within seconds, then recorded a takedown a minute later. Richards recorded two more takedowns before the period ended, making the score 9-2 going into the third. In the final period, Richards scored two more takedowns and acquired 2:54 in total riding time, giving him the 14-5 major decision victory.
After returning to the lineup on Friday night at Purdue, #9 Steven Rodrigues took on Pat Greco in the final matchup of the night. Greco scored first with a takedown, but Rodrigues escaped less than a minute later to make the score 2-1. Rodrigues started the second period on top and rode Greco for over a minute and a half before turning him for a two-point near-fall to take the 3-2 lead. The redshirt-sophomore recorded an escape and a takedown in the final period to claim the 7-2 victory and make the final score 24-12 in favor of the Illini.
The Orange and Blue are back in action on Feb. 16-17 for the NWCA National Duals in Columbus, Ohio. The event will feature some of the best teams in the nation, including #5 Oklahoma, #6 Cornell and #18 Iowa State, along with Big Ten opponents #3 Minnesota and #11 Ohio State.
#15 Illinois 24, #9 Northwestern 12