Eight Illini Qualify for NCAA Championships

Defending NCAA Champion Jesse Delgado earned the No. 1 seed.
Defending NCAA Champion Jesse Delgado earned the No. 1 seed.

March 12, 2014

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Eight Illini wrestlers have qualified to compete at the 2014 NCAA Championships on March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Jesse Delgado (125), Zane Richards (133), Steven Rodrigues (141), Zac Brunson (157), Jackson Morse (165), Tony Dallago (174), Nikko Reyes (184) and Mario Gonzalez (197) automatically qualified for the national meet at last weekend's Big Ten Championships.

Defending NCAA Champion Jesse Delgado grabbed the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds and will take on Jade Rauser of Utah Valley University. The junior faced Rauser in the first round of the national tournament last year as the No. 2 seed and came away with a 13-4 major decision victory. Delgado won his second straight conference title last weekend and currently holds a 25-2 record.

Zane Richards earned the No. 14 seed in his first-ever NCAA Championships. In the first round, he'll square off against Nick Wilcox of Bloomsburg for the third time this season. Wilcox pinned Richards in the pair's first meeting in December, but Richards won an 8-5 decision at the NWCA National Duals in February. The redshirt-freshman placed fifth at last weekend's Big Ten Championships and has compiled a 25-7 record in his first season as Illinois' 133-pound starter.

Steven Rodrigues has qualified for the national tournament for the first time in his career after placing sixth at the conference championships. Rodrigues will face No. 8 Luke Vaith of Hofstra in the first round. Despite missing over a month of action due to injury, Rodrigues has tallied a 12-9 record this season.

First-year starter Zac Brunson is coming off of a seventh-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and grabbed the No. 16 seed at 157 pounds. He'll take on Thomas Gantt of North Carolina State for the second time this season. Brunson recorded a 12-4 major decision victory over Gantt back in November.

Jackson Morse recorded his highest-ever finish at the conference championships (fifth) and has qualified for the national tournament for the second time in his career. Morse earned the No. 12 seed and will square off against Indiana's Ryan Leblanc. The redshirt-junior has posted a 25-6 record this season.

Tony Dallago becomes a four-time national qualifier, but will wrestle at 174-pounds for the first time at the national tournament. After serving as Illinois' 184-pound starter for three years, Dallago has compiled a 20-11 record as the starter at 174 pounds this season. He'll take on No. 16 Mathew Miller (NAVY) in the first round.

Nikko Reyes will compete in his first ever national tournament after placing sixth at the conference championships. Reyes has compiled a 20-12 record in his first year as Illinois' 184-pound starter and will take on No. 15 Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa.

Mario Gonzalez has qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third time in his career after finishing eighth at the Big Ten Championships. Gonzalez will square off against Oklahoma State's Blake Rosholt, with the winner taking on No. 2 J'Den Cox of Missouri. The matchup will mark the third career meeting between the two wrestlers, as Gonzalez has dropped two close bouts to Rosholt at the NWCA National Duals.

The NCAA Championships begin March 20 at 11:00 a.m. at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. For the first time in tournament history, sessions one and two will air live on ESPNU, while ESPN3's individual mat feeds will allow fans to watch every match. Sessions three and five will air live on ESPNU, while session four (semifinals) and session six (championship finals) will be televised by ESPN.