Redshirt-sophomore Mario Gonzalez won his first Big Ten title at 197 at the Big Ten Championships.
March 4, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Fifth-seeded Mario Gonzalezwon his first career title with a 10-4 decision over Indiana's second-seed Matt Powless to help the Illini to a fourth-place finish as a team at the 2012 Big Ten Championships with 105.5 points. The total points tied for the fifth-most scored at the conference championships since the 1997 season. Gonzalez was one of eight wrestlers to place at the tournament and seven who qualified automatically for the NCAA Championships on March. 15-17 in St. Louis. Joining Gonzalez with automatic bids at nationals will be Jesse Delgado (125), B.J. Futrell (133), Eric Terrazas (149), Conrad Polz (165), Jordan Blanton (174), and Tony Dallago (184).
"We wrestled very well today," head coach Jim Heffernansaid. "I'm really proud of our guys and their effort. We beat a lot of guys that ranked higher than us and beat us during the year, so those are really good signs. Mario beat a very good opponent. This is his first full season after being injured. He is starting to believe in the ability he has and he looked really good today and wrestled well under a high pressure situation."
Gonzalez was the offensive wrestler throughout the entire championship match. The redshirt-sophomore got on the board with two near falls and was up 4-1 after the first period. Gonzalez scored two additional takedowns to Powless' one and rode the Hoosier out to end the second period 8-4. In the third, Gonzalez started down and recorded the escape and the riding time point to take his first career Big Ten title 10-4. The Illini is the first Orange and Blue wrestler in the 197 weight class to win a Big Ten crown since Pat Quirkachieved the feat in 2001.
Delgado (125) and Futrell(133) took third place at the Big Ten Championships, both with career-high finishes during the two-day event. No. 4 seed Delgado defeated No. 7 Camden Eppert (Purdue) with a 6-2 decision and took the third-place match after moving past fifth-seeded Levi Mele of Northwestern by a 6-1 decision. Futrell defeated both of his opponents by decisions as the Illini beat No. 4 seed Chris Dardanes of Minnesota (9-4) and No. 6 seed Zach Stevens of Michigan (3-2).
Polz (165) and Dallago(184) took fourth place during the two-day championships with both wrestlers finishing a career-best. Polz started the final day defeating No. 7 Cody Yohn of Minnesota, 3-2 and then dropped his final match to Nebraska's No. 3 seed Robert Kokesh, 4-1. Dallago had a great tournament as he defeated Iowa's No. 4 seed Grant Gambrall for the first time in his career, 5-3. The Illini then gave defending Big Ten and national champion Quentin Wright of Penn State a great match, however Dallago came up short with the 8-7 decision to earn fourth place.
At 174, Blanton out performed his No. 8 seed as he finished fifth and defeated the No. 5 seed Nick Heflin of Ohio State 8-7 while Daryl Thomas placed at the conference championships for the first time in his career in the 141 bracket, finishing sixth. No. 7 seed Terrazasplaced for the third time in his career as he finished eighth.
Penn State won the Big Ten Championships for the second consecutive year with 149 points, followed by Minnesota with 134 points and Iowa collected 126 points to take third place.
Final Team Standings
1. Penn State - 149
2. Minnesota - 134
3. Iowa - 126
4. ILLINOIS - 105.5
5. Ohio State - 91
6. Northwestern - 75
7. Nebraska - 66
8. Michigan - 65
9. Purdue - 51.5
10. Indiana - 41
10. Michigan State - 41
12. Wisconsin - 9