Delgado Wins Second Straight Conference Title
March 9, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Illinois junior Jesse Delgado won his second straight conference title at the 2014 Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Sunday. The second-seeded Illini defeated No. 1 seed Nico Megaludis 3-2 in double overtime to help lead the Orange & Blue to a sixth-place finish with 78.5 points. Eight other Illini earned spots on the podium with top-eight finishes, including fifth-place finishes from Zane Richards, Jackson Morse and Tony Dallago.
"There are always a ton of mixed emotions after a tournament like this," said head coach Jim Heffernan. "There are matches and certain situations that could have changed the outcome. There's some matches that you would love to have the chance to have back."
No. 2 Delgado squared off against Penn State's top-seeded Nico Megaludis in the championship final, marking the sixth career meeting between the two wrestlers. After a scoreless first period, Delgado started on top and controlled Megaludis for the majority of the second period. Megaludis managed to escape with 30 seconds left to take the 1-0 lead going into the final period. In the third, Delgado quickly escaped from the bottom position to tie the score at 1-1 and send the bout into overtime. After a scoreless first overtime period, the match went into double overtime where each wrestler recorded an escape in the 30-second tie breaker periods. However, Delgado claimed the riding time advantage to win 3-2 and capture his second straight conference title.
"I am never surprised with the success Jesse has," said Heffernan. "He and Megaludis have a great rivalry and those matches are always going to be a war. It is always a good thing to have a conference champion, both individually and for the program. Jesse has his eyes set more on the NCAA championships."
Five Illini competed in the fifth-place bouts on Sunday. Zane Richards (133), Jackson Morse (165) and Tony Dallago (174) notched victories to place fifth, while Steven Rodrigues (141) and Nikko Reyes (184) dropped their matches to place sixth. No. 5 Richards defeated No. 6 Johnni DiJulius (OSU) 10-4 while Jackson Morse beat Austin Wilson (NEB) 6-2 to record his highest Big Ten Championships finish. No. 5 Tony Dallago earned a spot on the podium for the fourth time in his career when he defeated No. Scott Liegel of Wisconsin 6-4. No. 7 Steven Rodrigues dropped a close 3-2 bout to No. 5 Josh Dziewa and No. 8 Nikko Reyes fell to No. 6 Kenny Courts 16-6, but both earned sixth-place finishes in their first-ever Big Ten Championships.
"Zane Richards, Jackson Morse and Tony Dallago did a very good job coming back in the consolations and winning," said Heffernan. "My feeling is that it is very important to win your last match of the tournament heading into the NCAA Championships, so they were all great wins."
No. 7 Zac Brunson (157) defeated No. 5 Dylan Alton of Penn State to place seventh in his first conference championships. The redshirt freshman dropped his regular season bout to Alton back in January, but came away with the 13-4 major decision victory on Sunday. Caleb Ervin squared off against No. 6 Ian Paddock (OSU) in the 149-pound battle for seventh-place, but lost a 15-3 major decision to finish in eighth place, earning him a spot on the podium for the second straight year. No. 6 Mario Gonzalez was set to face No. 8 Timmy McCall of Wisconsin in the seventh-place bout at 197 pounds, but an injury default bumped him down to an eighth-place finish.
Additionally, eight Illini automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships based on their finish at the conference tournament. Delgado, Richards, Rodrigues, Brunson, Morse, Dallago, Reyes and Gonzalez all secured a spot at the national championships, which will take place March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"Having eight guys qualify means we have eight guys that can score for us at the national tournament," said Heffernan. "Each guy needs to understand what a huge opportunity they have and make the most of it."
Final Team Standings