John Dergo will break into the Illinois career wins top 25 with a win against SIUE on Friday.
Jan. 7, 2010
#20 Illinois vs. SIU Edwardsville
Jan. 8 // Huff Hall // 7 pm // Champaign, Ill.
Illinois (4-2) Probable Wrestlers
125 -/-/- John Deneen (5-5), Jr.
133 -/-/- Daryl Thomas (11-8), r-Fr.
141 13/9/12 Ryan Prater (8-3), Jr.
149 -/-/- Eric Terrazas (9-0), So.
157 -/-/- Conrad Polz (11-8), r-Fr.
165 -/-/- Joe Barczak (9-5), Jr.
174 15/17/11 Jordan Blanton (10-3), So.
184 2/2/4 John Dergo (18-2), Sr.
197 10/19/12 Patrick Bond (13-7), Sr.
HWT -/-/- Martin Smith (9-8), So.
Rankings are listed in Intermat, W.I.N., AWN format
No. 2 John Dergo is having a banner senior season after moving up to 184, holding an 18-2 record, with both losses coming to top-7 opponents. Dergo won the Midlands title by beating three consecutive two-time All-Americans in Missouri's No. 1 Max Askren, American's No. 2 Mike Cannon and Harvad's Louis Caputo. His two losses on the season have come to Askren and No. 7 Kirk Smith (Boise State). The 18-2 start is a career-best beginning to a season for the Morris, Ill., native and his next win will move him into a tie for 24th in all-time wins in program history.
After a strong freshman year, sophomore No. 15 Jordan Blanton is enjoying his move down to 174 pounds this season with a 8-1 start and five pins. His five falls are more than halfway to his total of eight from a year ago.
Junior No. 13 Ryan Prater (141) wrestled only four matches prior to Midlands because of injuries, but he returned to the lineup at the tournament as the No. 7 seed and out-performed his seed by finishing fifth with two wins over ranked opponents, including Iowa's No. 7 and second-seeded Dan LeClere in the quarterfinals.
Injuries have been a big story already for the Fighting Illini, as four starters were missing at the Las Vegas Invitational. B.J. Futrell (125 pounds) and No. 15 Jordan Blanton (174) returned for the duals against Findlay and McKendree, but Futrell is done for the season after re-aggravating the shoulder injury that has plagued him all season. No. 13 Ryan Prater (141) returned to the lineup at Midlands and placed fifth, and Eric Terrazas (149) will be in the lineup Friday against SIUE.
Terrazas, a sophomore, battled through a tough freshman year but has burst out to a fast start this season before breaking his foot over Thanksgiving break. He's 9-0 with a first-place finish at the Lindenwood Open and a dual win over Missouri's Brandon Wiest. Terrazas didn't get his first dual win against a Division I opponent until Feb. 20 last season.
#20 Illini Face Cougars at Huff Hall
No. 20 Illinois returns to its home mat Friday night when it hosts SIU Edwardsville at 7 p.m. in the first meeting between the two schools since 2004, when the top-ranked Illini blasted the Cougars, 50-0. SIUE has found its first season as a Division I team to be a rough one, holding an 0-9 dual record after dropping three duals at the Purdue Duals on Dec. 20. The Illini have put together a 4-2 mark in duals despite being hit hard by injuries throughout the season. Illinois is beginning to get healthy as sophomore Eric Terrazas is expected to return this week from the broken foot he suffered over Thanksgiving break.
Illinois holds a 14-7-1 advantage in the all-time series and has won 10 consecutive meetings since 1993. The Illini are coming off a solid finish at Midlands and senior 184-pounder John Dergo has won seven consecutive matches and 14 of his last 15.
Dergo Dials up Midlands Title
Entering the Midlands Championships, No. 6 John Dergo had never finished higher than sixth at the event and had beaten only one opponent ranked higher than No. 10. But that all changed as Dergo charged through the 184-pound bracket to bring home his first major-tournament title.
Dergo downed No. 1 Max Askren (Missouri), No. 2 Mike Cannon (American) and fourth-seeded Louis Caputo (Harvard), who was unranked because he hadn't wrestled yet this season. Caputo, Askren and Cannon all are two-time All-Americans and Dergo had never beaten any of them, losing to Caputo at the 2006 Midlands, to Cannon at the 2009 NCAA Tournament and to Askren earlier this year in a dual. The victories also gave Dergo wins over opponents ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 this season (Askren and Cannon at Midlands and Mike Pucillo at the Las Vegas Invitational).
Illini Notch Early Pins
At approximately the halfway point of the season, Illinois already has registered 29 pins by non-redshirting wrestlers, on pace to reach the top 10 in school history for single-season pins. The tenth-best entry on that list is 37 pins, which the Illini are well within range of. Leading the way so far is No. 2 John Dergo (184) with a career-high six falls and No. 9 Jordan Blanton (174) has five. B.J. Futrell (125) is close behind with four pins.
Polz Drops Down to 157
Redshirt-freshman Conrad Polz wrestled the first half of the season at 165 pounds, collecting a 10-6 record and being ranked as high as No. 17. But he dropped down to 157 for Midlands and will wrestle there the rest of the season.
The Redshirts are Coming!
After seeing Mike Poeta and John Wise graduate and with senior Jimmy Kennedy redshirting this season, the Illini have turned to a trio of redshirt-freshmen to fill the classes of 133, 157 and heavyweight. Daryl Thomas, of Edwardsville, Ill., Conrad Polz, of Orland Park, Ill., and Pat Walker, of Lombard, Ill., have compiled a 32-27 record thus far. Plus, that recruiting class is holding down four starting spots when you include classmates and true-sophomores Eric Terrazas (149) and No. 15 Jordan Blanton (174).
Dergo, Blanton Switch Spots in Lineup
After both John Dergo and Jordan Blanton had strong seasons in 2009, few would've predicted the move they have executed for 2010 - switching weight classes. Dergo has bumped up to 184 pounds - where he wrestled as a true freshman, going 24-12 and placing fifth at the Big Ten Championships - and Blanton has dropped to 174 after going 27-11 with a fourth-place Big Ten finish at 184 a year ago. So far the results bear out the switch, as Dergo is 18-2 with titles at Midlands and the Lindenwood Open, a second-place finish at the Las Vegas Invitational and wins over No. 1 Max Askren (Missouri), No. 2 Mike Cannon (American) and No. 3 Mike Pucillo (Ohio State). Blanton also has thrived from the switch despite battling injuries early in the season, going 10-3 with a Lindenwood Open title. All three of Blanton's losses have come to ranked opponents.
#20 Illini Finish 10th at Midlands
Senior No. 6 John Dergo outlasted the field at 184 pounds at the 47th Midlands Championships, upsetting the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds on his way to a tournament title. Dergo defeated fourth-seeded Louis Caputo (Harvard) in the quarterfinals before topping No. 1 and top-seeded Max Askren (Missouri), 3-2, in the semifinals. That set up a title bout with second-ranked and second-seeded Mike Cannon (American), in which Dergo scored a late takedown to force overtime and notched a takedown in sudden-victory time for the win and the title.
In addition to Dergo's championship, junior 141-pounder Ryan Prater reached the semifinals before suffering consecutive losses. He fought back for a fifth-place finish by pinning Iowa's ninth-seeded Montell Marion in the fifth-place match. Senior 197-pounder Patrick Bond stormed through the consolation bracket to finish sixth and Jimmy Kennedy, who is redshirting this season, placed second at 141.