Illini Wrestlers Open Season Friday Against Missouri In Edwardsville

Senior Adam Tirapelle needs 26 wins this season to become the Illinois all-time leader.
Senior Adam Tirapelle needs 26 wins this season to become the Illinois all-time leader.

Nov. 7, 2000

SEASON OPENER: The University of Illinois wrestling team will open the 2000-01 season Friday, November 10, at 7 p.m., against the University of Missouri in Edwardsville, Ill.

The same two teams opened the 1999-2000 season with the Fighting Illini claiming a 27-12 win. In that win, the third-ranked Illini won decisions in seven of the ten weight classes with Ryan Escobar (125), Carl Perry (141), Adam Tirapelle (149), Griff Powell (157), Bill Zeman (165), Nate Patrick (184) and John Lockhart (Hwt) picking up wins.

Friday's competition will mark the third consecutive season that the Illini and Tigers have opened the year against each other. In addition to last year's 27-12 win, the Illini won 33-3 to open the 1998-99 campaign. This will be the 26th meeting between Illinois and Missouri with the Fighting Illini holding a 18-7 advantage in the series which dates back to the first meeting in 1928.


Wt.-Wrestler1999-2000 Record
125-Ryan Escobar26-14, 10-3 duals
(Sr., Placerville, Calif., Ponderosa H.S.)
133-Kelly Madden13-9, 2-2 duals
(So., Pekin, Ill., Pekin Community H.S.)
141-Mike Castillo9-6, 2-0 duals
(Sr., Western Springs, Ill., Lyons Township H.S,)
149-Adam Tirapelle39-3, 14-1 duals
(Sr., Clovis, Calif., Buchanan H.S.)
157-Ryan Berger10-6, 2-1 duals
(So., Mahomet, Ill., Mahomet-Seymour H.S.)
165-Matt Lackey13-3, 4-0 duals
(So., Moline, Ill., Moline H.S.)
174-Ben King18-11, 13-1 duals
(Sr., Western Springs, Ill., Lyons Township H.S.)
184-Nate Patrick34-5, 14-1 duals
(Sr., Naperville, Ill., Naperville North H.S.)
197-Pat Quirk30-12, 11-4 duals
(Sr., Clarendon Hills, Ill., Hinsdale Central H.S.)
Hwt-John Lockhart32-7, 13-2 duals
(Jr., Mahomet, Ill., Mahomet-Seymour H.S.)

Head coach Mark Johnson is beginning his ninth season as head coach of the Fighting Illini, with a record of 92-24-1 (.770) at Illinois

  • Has a career record of 112-29-3 (.771) in 10 years
  • Third-winningest coach in Illinois history, behind B.R. Patterson (100 wins) and H.E. Kenney (95 wins)
  • 1977 University of Michigan graduate and two-time All-American at 177 pounds
  • 1980 U.S. Olympic team member
  • 1995 NCAA Division I Coach of the Year
  • Has coached four national champions, 19 All-Americans and 64 Big Ten place winners at Illinois


YearDualBig TenNCAA
Totals - 92-24-1

The University of Illinois wrestling program is almost where head coach Mark Johnson would like it to be. After leading the Illini to its highest NCAA finish in 42 years, crowning four All-Americans and his fourth individual national champion in the past six seasons, the 2000-01 Illini could be his strongest team entering his ninth season at Illinois.

"I think that this team has the potential to be the best team that I've had here," Johnson said. "To have three returning All-Americans, this is a first for us," Johnson said. "We've been producing All-Americans and have had our share of national champions. There's no question that everyone in the country knows we're a pretty good team. But, no, we're not where I want to be but this is a team that can get us there."

Where Johnson would like to be is contending for the national title.

"We've talked for the last three or four years about challenging for a national championship," he said. "First you have to break into that upper echelon and we're close to being one of those upper echelon teams. Our goal is to get an NCAA trophy and we were very capable last year, we just didn't get that done. I don't want to sound disappointed, we finished sixth in the country, but we did not accomplish our goal last year. So we go back to that same type of goal this year, which is to get into the top four."

With a top four finish in sight, the Illini would return to territory they haven't visited since 1948 when a 4-4 dual team under head coach Glenn Law finished second in the Big Ten then went on to crown four All-Americans en route to a third-place national finish.

With the success the Illini have had in recent years, several career records could fall this season. Johnson enters the season with 92 dual wins at Illinois and needs just eight more victories to tie B.R. Patterson on the Illini's all-time wins list. Patterson recorded 100 wins while coaching from 1951-68.

A couple of the other marks in the crosshairs this season will be career wins and pins. Senior Adam Tirapelle made a blitz on the record books last season, registering 39 wins which ranks second to only Steve Marianetti's 44 wins in 1992-93. Tirapelle also recorded 15 pins, which is the top-single season effort in Fighting Illini history. These numbers leave Tirapelle within reach to eclipse the career marks. He needs 26 wins this season to become the all-time leader in career victories and 10 falls to surpass Keith Healy's 31 pins from 1984-88.

"I told the guys in our first team meeting that this is the nucleus of a team that has the potential to win the national championship at some point during their careers," Johnson said. "I know we're capable of finishing in the top four. We're going to be a great dual meet team and our strength is our balance. Are we a top four-caliber team? Yes we are, so let's set those goals and let's get after it."

The University of Illinois wrestling team is ranked fifth in the InterMat Pre-season NCAA Division I Wrestling Rankings. The Illini are represented in eight of the 10 weight classes in the individual rankings and, for the first time in school history, have two wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the nation in Adam Tirapelle at 149 pounds and John Lockhart at heavyweight.

Defending NCAA champion Iowa heads the poll, followed by Minnesota, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Five Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 10 while 10 Big Ten teams are in the Top 25.

Other individuals ranked in the poll include Ryan Escobar (6th, 125), Griff Powell (14th, 157), Matt Lackey (12th, 165), Ben King (8th, 174), Nate Patrick (9th, 184) and Pat Quirk (7th, 197).

The Illini are also ranked No. 5 in the Amateur Wrestling News preseason rankings.

Intermat's Preseason Top 25

3.Iowa State
4.Oklahoma State
10.Michigan State
11.Arizona St.
12.Lock Haven
14.Boise State
16.Northern Iowa
18.Ohio State
19.Oregon State
22.Virginia Tech
25.Penn State

Illini in the Individual Rankings (Top 20)
125 - Ryan Escobar, 6th
149 - Adam Tirapelle, 1st
157 - Griff Powell, 14th
165 - Matt Lackey, 12th
174 - Ben King, 8th
184 - Nate Patrick, 9th
197 - Pat Quirk, 7th
Hwt - John Lockhart, 1st

Amateur Wrestling News Preseason Top 20

2.Iowa State
4.Oklahoma State
10.Arizona State
11.Boise State
14.Michigan State
16.Fresno State
18.Virginia Tech
19.Ohio State

Illini in the Individual Rankings
125 - Ryan Escobar, 7th
133 - Dave Stoltz, 10th
149 - Adam Tirapelle, 1st
157 - Griff Powell, 11th
165 - Matt Lackey, 15th
174 - Ben King, 12th
184 - Nate Patrick, 8th
197 - Pat Quirk, 6th
Hwt - John Lockhart, 2nd