Illini Wrestlers Open Season Friday Against Missouri In Edwardsville
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.
MARK JOHNSON'S RECORD AT ILLINIOIS:
"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."
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.
The Illini are also ranked No. 5 in the Amateur Wrestling News preseason rankings.
Intermat's Preseason Top 25
Illini in the Individual Rankings (Top 20)
Amateur Wrestling News Preseason Top 20
Illini in the Individual Rankings