#10 Illini Host #16 Michigan on Friday
Jan. 16, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini wrestling team returns to Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 17 when they square off against #16 Michigan at 7 p.m. The two programs have met 66 times over the last 90 years, with Michigan ahead in the series 40-25-1. The last matchup between the two programs took place at Michigan on Jan. 8, 2012, with the Illini defeating the Wolverines, 31-9.
There will be plenty of talent on display Friday night a the Illinois' roster boasts eight nationally-ranked wrestlers, while the Wolverines' lineup includes four. Several weight classes should provide hotly contested battles, but here are a few key match-ups.
After a redshirt season last year, Jackson Morse has been Illinois' 165-pound starter this season. The redshirt-junior holds a 15-1 record, with his only loss coming against #13 Cooper Moore of Northern Iowa at the Midlands Championships. Morse's biggest win of the season came at the Grapple of the Garden, when he held then-ranked #6 Josh Veltre of Bloomsburg to zero points to win the 11-0 major decision. The Alto, Mich., native has tallied a team-high seven tech. falls this season, and has scored the second-most dual points on the squad. Before redshirting last season, Morse placed seventh at the Big Ten Championships in 2011 and 2012, and qualified for the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Morse will take on #8 Dan Yates, a redshirt-senior with an 11-2 record. Yates is coming off of back-to-back dual wins, and his No. 8 ranking is the highest of the season. Yates placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational after pinning Northern Iowa's Cooper Moore. The three-time NCAA qualifier placed sixth at the 2013 Big Ten Championships after upsetting then-ranked #1 Logan Storely of Minnesota in the quarterfinals.
Redshirt-sophomore Caleb Ervin is in his second season as Illinois' 149-pound starter. Ervin currently holds a 2-2 record, including a win over then-ranked #15 Bryce Busler of Bloomsburg at the Grapple at the Garden. Last season, Ervin placed eighth at the Big Ten Championships and qualified for the NCAA Championships, earning him NWCA Rookie of the Year honors.
Ervin will square off against #12 Eric Grajales on Friday. The redshirt-senior is coming off of a second place finish at the Midlands Championships and holds a 12-6 record this season. Last season, Grajales pinned Ervin at the Big Ten Championships to take seventh place and qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year.
Redshirt-freshman Zac Brunson is a first-year starter for the Illini, representing the squad at 157 pounds. The Eugene, Ore., native reached a career high No. 13 ranking in early December and currently holds a 15-4 record, with two of those losses coming against ranked opponents. Brunson recorded a seventh place finish at the Midlands Championships in December, and placed first at the Loras Open to start the season.
On Friday, Brunson will face #13 Brian Murphy, who is also a first-year starter for Wolverines. The freshman recorded a fifth-place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, where he earned back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, and a first-place finish at the EMU Open. Murphy is coming off of a victory in his Big Ten debut, and his No. 13 ranking is the highest of the season.