Freshman Jimmy Kennedy
April 25, 2007
Champaign, Ill. - The University of Illinois wrestling team celebrated a successful season Tuesday evening at the team¹s annual banquet. After finishing the regular season 11-1, going 7-1 in the conference, eight Illinois grapplers qualified for the NCAA Championships to close out what was an unpredictable, yet successful, year.
Sophomore 157-pounder Mike Poeta (Highland Park, Ill.), who garnered his first All-American accolade after a third-place finish at NCAAs, earned the team¹s highest honors of Most Valuable Wrestler. Poeta finished the regular season undefeated at 18-0, and was ranked No. 1 for nine-straight weeks. After capturing the Midlands Championship, Poeta took over the top-ranked spot and went into the Big Ten Tournament as the top seed.
The Freshman of the Year award went to newcomer Jimmy Kennedy (Ingleside, Ill.), who had a break-out season as a true-freshman at 133-pounds. Kennedy finished the year ranked No. 9 and compiled a 29-7 record. He qualified for the NCAA Championships by placing fourth at Big Tens, and went 2-2 at NCAAs. The grappler defeated five-ranked wrestlers in the regular season, and finished 11-1 in the conference only falling to No. 1 Nick Simmons of Michigan State in a dual. Kennedy was one of two true-freshman to be placed in the same lineup this season, which was a first for Mark Johnson in his 15-year career at Illinois.
The Outstanding Match Award went to senior Matt Winterhalter (Durand, Ill.), whose key win in the last home match of his career gave Illinois the victory over Ohio State. With the Illini trailing 18-15 heading into the final match of the dual, Winterhalter demolished Tommy Priestly in a 10-0 major-decisionthat gave Illinois the victory.
Sophomore Troy Tirapelle (Clovis, Calif.) earned the award for Most Pins after leading the team with eight on the season. Tirapelle¹s fastest fall came against Jeff Wimberley (Mich. St.) in 51 seconds. The honor is Tirapelle¹s second-straight. Last season, he led the Illini with seven pins.