#10 Illini Take On #8 Ohio State in Home Opener
Jan. 11, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- - The Fighting Illini wrestling team will return to Huff Hall for the first time this season when they square off against #8 Ohio State on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 1p.m. The two top-10 programs have met 63 times over the last 80 years, with the Illini ahead in the series 32-30-1. Both programs have a history of finishing at the top of the Big Ten conference, and with the young talent on each of these rosters, they look to be national title contenders.
FEATURE: Delgado Ready for Home Opener
The Illinois roster boasts eight nationally-ranked wrestlers, while the Buckeyes' lineup includes seven. Each team returns a defending NCAA Champion, as Illini Jesse Delgado won the 125-pound title and Ohio State's Logan Stieber took home the 133-pound crown. With the two teams so evenly matched, Sunday promises to be an exciting event at every weight class. However, a few key match-ups look to highlight the day.
Redshirt-freshman Zane Richards is in his first season as Illinois' 133-pound starter, and has already made a positive impact on the team. Richards currently holds a 10-2 overall record, and has scored the fourth-most dual points on the team. His biggest win of the season came in December at the Grapple at the Garden when he defeated then-ranked #11 Mark Grey of Cornell. The Carbondale, Ill., native will make his Huff Hall debut on Sunday, and looks forward to wrestling in front of the local fans.
"I'm really excited about wrestling at home," said Richards. "Growing up, I would watch wrestling on the Big Ten Network and think 'Wow, it would be cool to wrestle at Illinois.' This is something I've always looked forward to, and now it's my time to do it."
Richards will square off against #7 Johnni DiJulius on Sunday. DiJulius was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week on Dec. 10 after winning the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational 133-pound title. The redshirt sophomore is currently 16-1, and has held the No. 7 ranking since Dec. 9.
Redshirt senior Tony Dallago moved to the 174-pound starting spot this season after serving as the squad's 184-pound starter for three years. Dallago reached a career-high No. 8 ranking earlier in the season after defeating then-ranked #15 Kevin Radford of Arizona State. The three-time NCAA qualifier started the season 8-0, including a first-place finish at the Loras Open, and currently holds an 11-4 record.
On Sunday, Dallago will face #16 Mark Martin, who is also new to the 174-pound weight class. Last season, Martin wrestled at 165 pounds and qualified for the NCAA Championships as a true freshman. Martin holds a 17-7 record, and his No. 16 ranking is a season-high.
Redshirt freshman Nikko Reyes is a first-year starter for Illinois. Reyes began his collegiate career with ten straight wins, including a Loras Open title. Reyes has tallied four pins this season, which is tied for the most on the team, and has scored 24 dual points. The Fresno, Calif., native currently holds a 12-4 record.
Reyes will take on #9 Kenny Courts, who holds an 18-3 record. Earlier this season, Courts won the Michigan State Open and placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Courts has faced some tough competition this season, with two of his losses coming from Penn State's Ed Ruth and Pittsburgh's Max Thomusseit, who are currently ranked No. 1 and No. 7 in the nation.