Illini Grapplers Set To Compete At 70th NCAA Championships
March 14, 2000
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: The fifth-ranked University of Illinois wrestling team will travel to St. Louis, Mo., for the 70th annual NCAA Wrestling Championships. The championships will be held March 16-18 at the Kiel Center.
The Fighting Illini enter this year's championship after compiling a 14-1 dual record and a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Illinois sent two wrestlers to the finals at the Big Ten tournament with Adam Tirapelle claiming the 149-pound title while Nate Patrick injury defaulted the 184-pound title after securing an NCAA bid. All 10 Illini wrestlers earned a berth into the national tournament, nine claimed seventh-place or higher finishes at the qualifying meet while 125 pounder Ryan Escobar received one of two wildcard bids. Illinois placed 12th at last year's NCAA championship. The highest NCAA finish for the Illini under head coach Mark Johnson came in 1998 when the Orange and Blue finished seventh. The last time the Illini sent 10 qualifiers to the tournament was in 1995. That team went on to finish ninth but crowned two individual national champions when Steve Marianetti won the 150-pound title and Ernest Benion followed winning the title at 158. Illinois has recorded 23 top 10 team finishes at the NCAA championships which ranks ninth among Division I schools. The Illini's highest finish was second on two occasions, 1931 and 1938.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS: The following is a breakdown of the daily sessions at this year's Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
THE COACH: Head coach Mark Johnson is in his eighth season as head coach of the Fighting Illini, with a record of 92-24-1 (.791) at Illinois
THE RATING GAME: The Fighting Illini are ranked sixth in the latest InterMat NCAA Division I wrestling rankings and fifth by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Ten Illini individuals are also ranked, they are: Ryan Escobar, 15th (125), David Stoltz, 20th (133), Carl Perry, 9th (141), Adam Tirapelle, 3rd (149), Griff Powell, 14th (157), Bill Zeman, 17th (165), Ben King, 13th (174), Nate Patrick, 5th (184), Pat Quirk, 11th (197) and John Lockhart, 4th (Heavyweight).
FALL GUY: Adam Tirapelle recorded his team-leading 14th pin of the season against Tim Myers of Indiana in the semifinals of the Big Ten Championships. That fall moved Tirapelle into a third-place tie with Bob Norman who recorded 22 career pins from 1956-58. With his next pin - his 15th of the season - he will own the third spot and will be three shy of Larry TenPas who recorded 26 career falls.
MORE ADAM: Tirapelle's Big Ten title at 149 pounds was the Illini's first since 1997 when Ernest Benion won the 158-pound title. Tirapelle became the Illini's 56th Big Ten champion and second under head coach Mark Johnson.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Senior 141-pounder Carl Perry moved into seventh-place on the Illini's career wins list. Perry has 93 career victories and needs four more to catch former heavyweight Jon Llewellyn for fourth place with 97 wins. Perry is being pursued by Adam Tirapelle and Bill Zeman in career wins. Tirapelle is the team leader in wins this season with 34, giving him 91 for his career. Bill Zeman is only four behind with 87 career wins.
HOT TICKET: The 2000 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, to be held at Kiel Center, March 16-18, in St. Louis, Missouri, has sold the most all-session tickets in the 69-year history of the event. With 15,015 all-session tickets sold and three-day championship ticket sales over 90,090, the University of Missouri and St. Louis Sports Commission have surpassed the previous record set in 1997 at the University of Northern Iowa. The Kiel Center, which will seat 19,854 for wrestling, is the largest venue ever to host the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Approximately 2,000 general public seats are still available. For information on all-session and Saturday-only tickets, fans may call 800/916-9642.
CLUB 30: Illinois juniors Adam Tirapelle and Nate Patrick have each earned 30 or more wins this season. Those win totals mark the 23rd and 24th time in Illini history an individual has had 30 or more wins in a single season. Tirapelle joined the club last year with the 34 victories and is one of seven others (Steve Marianetti, Eric Siebert, Kevin Puebla, Ernest Benion, Lindsey Durlacher and Jevon Herman) to have accomplished this feat twice in their careers. With 30 or more wins next season, Tirapelle will become the only Illini to have ever made the list three times. Patrick just fell short with 29 wins last season.
RANKED ROOKIES: Illinois' recruiting class of Mark Jayne (Elyria, Ohio, St. Edward High School) and Paul Collum (Romeoville High School) are the top-ranked senior wrestlers in their respective weight classes according to Wrestling USA magazine. Jayne, a two-time Ohio state champion, is first at 125 pounds while Collum, a two-time Illinois state champ, is tops at 130.
Intermat's Top 25 (3/8/00)
National Champions, High NCAA Finishes Rule the Times It is impossible to ignore the success that Mark Johnson has had during his eight years at Illinois. In 1993, he took over a program that had posted two winning seasons in 10 years and has since formed Illinois into a national power, having posted eight straight winning seasons and been a regular in the national team rankings.
The facts support the theory that Johnson has helped wake a sleeping giant in Champaign-Urbana:
Although Illinois has achieved much success during the last eight years, there are still many more goals to achieve, and Johnson will be around to guide his program into the future. In January of 2000, Johnson increased his commitment to the University of Illinois by signing a three-year contract extension.
"My family and I are excited about the extension," Johnson said. "This is where I want to be. My staff and I have worked hard at turning our program into a top ten team and I feel we can challenge for the national title on a yearly basis. The University of Illinois is where I'd like to retire."
"Mark Johnson is at the top of his profession and, with high standards on and off the mat for his student-athletes, has developed Illinois wrestling into a consistent national contender," University of Illinois Director of Athletics Ron Guenther said. "We're pleased to keep Mark as part of the Illini family as he continues to pursue a national championship."
ILLINOIS' NCAA QUALIFIERS 1990-2000