Illini Host Nebraska Saturday for 'Great Escape'

Illinois will host the Great Escape on Saturday.
Illinois will host the Great Escape on Saturday.

Jan. 30, 2014

ILL vs. NEB Match Notes (PDF) | Coach Heffernan Interview

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. --The Fighting Illini wrestling team returns to Huff Hall on Saturday, Feb. 1 when they square off against #7 Nebraska at 4 p.m. The two programs have met seven times since 1939, with the series tied at 3-3. The last matchup between the two programs was the first in 10 years, with the Huskers defeating the Illini 18-15 on Jan. 18, 2013 in Lincoln.

Saturday's dual will serve as the sixth-annual 'Great Escape' and will air live on the Big Ten Network. Tim Johnson and Jim Gibbons will be on the call with Shane Sparks matside starting at 4 p.m. CT. Admission is free and the first 1,000 fans through the doors will receive free foam 'takedown' fingers. There will also be a free special-edition 'Great Escape' poster available for fans at the marketing and concession stand, along with a raffle to win a pair of tickets to the men's basketball game vs. Iowa that takes place immediately following the dual (6:30 p.m.) at the State Farm Center. Fans are encouraged to wear all orange as part of an 'Orange-Out' to support the Illini.

The Illinois' roster boasts eight nationally-ranked wrestlers, while the Huskers' carries five, including three wrestlers ranked in the top-four. The Illini return a Big Ten Champion in Jesse Delgado, while Nebraska's Jake Sueflohn and James Green each finished runner-up at the conference championships last year. There will be plenty of talent on display Saturday afternoon, but a few key match-ups look to highlight the day.

157 pounds

#15 Zac Brunson
#1 James Green

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 17-5 record, with three of those losses coming against ranked opponents. Brunson's biggest win of the season came two weeks ago when he decisioned #13 Brian Murphy of Michigan, 2-0. He recorded a seventh place finish at the Midlands Championships in December, and placed first at the Loras Open to start the season.

Brunson will take on top-ranked James Green, an experienced junior with an 24-0 record. Two weeks ago, Green defeated defending NCAA Champion Derek St. John of Iowa in a 9-7 decision. Green has placed first in three tournaments this season, including the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The two-time NCAA All-American finished runner-up at the 2013 Big Ten Championships after falling to Jason Welch of Northwestern, who went on to finish second at the NCAA Championships.

174 pounds

#17 Tony Dallago
#4 Robert Kokesh

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 a 14-5 record. Dallago has won three out of his last four matchups and recorded his 37th career pin in Illinois' 29-6 victory over Michigan State, tying him with B.J. Futrell as Illinois' all-time leader in the category.

Dallago will square off against #4 Robert Kokesh on Saturday. The junior holds a 26-1 record and has defeated four ranked opponents this season, with his only loss coming against top-ranked Andrew Howe of Oklahoma in the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Kokesh finished third at the both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships last season, and led the Huskers in wins, dual wins, dual points, pins and major decisions.