The No. 11 Illini look to have a packed house at Huff Hall when the No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes visit Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission is free to all students from kindergarten through college.
Feb. 23, 2008
Mike Poeta (157) is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the NWCA rankings after tying his longest streak at No. 1 with a nine-week stint at the top. After a rough stretch in which he lost two of four bouts, he has gone 3-0, scoring bonus points in each win.
#7 Jimmy Kennedy (133) has won his last 10 matches, the longest streak of his career and second-longest by an Illini this season behind Mike Poeta's 22-match streak to start the season. Kennedy has recorded consecutive major decisions and has scored bonus points in five of the 10 bouts.
#11 Patrick Bond (197) upset No. 4 Dallas Herbst (Wisconsin), 3-2, on Feb.8, the highest-ranked opponent he has beaten in his career. Bond now has won 15 of his last 17 bouts and all four of his losses have been to foes ranked higher than him.
Illinois' 13 dual-match wins this season currently are tied for fourth on the Illinois single-season wins list. A win against Iowa would push the Illini into a tie for second with Mark Johnson's 1997 and 2000 squads.
Roger Smith-Bergsrud (165) has won four consecutive matches, each by one point, and the last three each by the same 4-3 score. In fact, he's 4-1 over his last five matches, all decided by a single point. Outside of the two pins he has given up this year, Smith-Bergsrud has five losses by a total of 11 points.
The Fighting Illini have won eight of their last 10 Big Ten duals and 14 of their last 18 dating back to the 2005-06 season. Illinois is 14-3-1 in that stretch, with the losses coming to #12 Northwestern on Feb. 17, #6 Michigan on Feb. 1 and #1 Minnesota last season, and the tie against #23 Wisconsin in 2006.
The Illini have won their last two dual matches against Iowa, winning 24-13 in Iowa City in 2006 and 25-7 in Champaign in 2005. The teams did not face each other in 2007.
For the second-straight year, Mark Johnson has two true-freshman in his starting lineup with #15 Ryan Prater wrestling at 141 and Grant Paswall at 149. It marks just the second time in Johnson's career that he has had two rookies in the same lineup after Jimmy Kennedy (133) and John Dergo (184) wrestled as true-freshman in 2006-07.
Illini Finishes Dual Season at Home
Winners of five of their last six dual matches, the Fighting Illini aim to finish the season undefeated at Huff Hall against No. 1 Iowa on Sunday at 1 p.m. It is the final dual of the regular season for both squads. All students from kindergarten through college will be admitted free to Sunday's match.
Weekend Matchups to Watch
Each dual is always tough from start-to-finish, but there are usually a few toss-up matches that decide the outcome. Here's a look at a few of those pairings that could turn the tide of Sunday's dual:
#1 Iowa at #10 Illinois
133: #3 Joe Slaton (IOWA) vs. #7 Jimmy Kennedy (ILL)
Kennedy has won 10 straight bouts dating back to Jan. 20 and is 7-0 in the Big Ten entering this weekend. Slaton is 28-2 on the season and has won 11 straight, including a 7-0 Big Ten mark. The Hawkeye got the better of Kennedy earlier this season at Midlands with a 6-0 decision in the semifinals of the tournament, but Kennedy knocked off Slaton by a 3-1 score in the third-place bout of the UNI Open in 2006.
141: #7 Dan LeClere (IOWA) vs. #15 Ryan Prater (ILL)
In a season that almost seems stereotypical for a freshman, Prater has shown flashes of brilliance with wins over No. 7 Kyle Ruschell (WIS) and No. 13 Ryan Williams (ODU), but got pinned by Penn State's Garrett Scott and lost in the overtime tiebreak round to No. 17 Keith Sulzer (Northwestern). Since becoming the full-time starter at 141, Prater hasn't won more than four consecutive matches. LeClere has been the anti-Prater this season, losing to Williams and Ruschell (major decision), while defeating Scott and Minnesota's third-ranked Manuel Rivera.
HWT: #7 Matt Fields (IOWA) vs. #15 John Wise (ILL)
Fields comes into the match with a 25-6 mark, compared to Wise's 26-11 record, but the two have similar records against Big Ten heavyweights. Both wrestlers dropped close bouts to Northwestern's top-ranked Dustin Fox and both lost to Wisconsin's Kyle Massey. Fields lost to Ohio State's J.D. Bergman during the dual season and Wise dropped a match to the Buckeye at the Las Vegas Invitational. Both defeated Penn State's John Laboranti, Michigan's Chad Bleske and Minnesota's Ben Berhow, as well as nonconference foes Jon May (Nebraska), Mark Ellis (Missouri) and Roy Dragon (Old Dominion). Fields holds a 2-1 lead in the series as Wise defeated the Hawkeye, 2-1, in the seventh-place match at Midlands this year, but Fields earned a 9-5 decision last year and a 12-3 major decision at the 2005 UNI Open.
Iowa Series History
Iowa leads the teams' all-time series, 42-27-1, but the Hawkeyes only hold an 18-15 advantage in Champaign. Mark Johnson is 3-5 against Iowa, where he was an assistant coach for 10 years. Illinois has won its last two duals against the Hawkeyes, taking a 24-13 victory at Iowa in 2006 and winning, 25-7, at Huff Hall in 2005.
Seven Illini Reach 20-Win Mark
No. 2 Mike Poeta (157), No. 9 Gabe Flores (125), No. 9 Jimmy Kennedy (133), No. 15 John Dergo (174), No. 11 Patrick Bond (197) and No. 15 John Wise (HWT) surpassed the 20-win after four Big Ten dual matches, marking the first time it happened in Mark Johnson's 16-year tenure at Illinois. No. 15 Ryan Prater (141) joined the 20-win crew on Feb. 22 against Purdue, giving the Illini seven total. Poeta currently stands at 27-2, Flores is 22-8, Kennedy sits at 24-4, Dergo is 23-10, Bond holds a 22-5 mark and Wise is 26-11. Grant Paswall (149) could join the group on Sunday since he currently has 19 wins.
Kennedy Avoids Sophomore Slump
No. 7 Jimmy Kennedy (133) has found a groove in his sophomore season, rattling off 10 consecutive wins dating back to Jan. 20. It is the longest winning streak of his career and second-longest of the season by an Illini behind Mike Poeta's (157) 22-match streak to start the year. Kennedy has scored bonus points in his last two matches and in five of the 10 bouts during the unbeaten streak. He is one of three Big Ten 133-pounders who are 7-0 in conference action, along with Iowa's Joey Slaton and Michigan State's Franklin Gomez. Slaton defeated both Kennedy and Gomez at Midlands, but Sunday will be the only dual-match meeting between any of the top three wrestlers at 133.