Nov. 7, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The 2013-14 Fighting Illini wrestling team wrapped up the 2012-13 season with three All-Americans, a fifth place finish at the Big Ten Championships and a ninth place finish at the NCAA Championships. Ranked No. 10 by WIN Magazine in the preseason rankings, the Illini begin their season Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Loras Open in Dubuque, Iowa.
Illinois will be led by reigning NCAA and Big Ten Champion Jesse Delgado (125), as well as 2012 Big Ten Champion Mario Gonzalez (197) and 2013 NWCA Rookie of the Year Caleb Ervin (149). Three-time NCAA qualifier Tony Dallago (174) and 2011 NCAA qualifier Jackson Morse (165) also return for the Illini.
Reigning NCAA and Big Ten Champion Jesse Delgado returns at 125 pounds. Delgado tallied a record of 27-3 last season to tie for the 11th-best single-season win percentage in school history (.900). The two-time All-American scored the second-most dual points in 2013, and is ranked the No. 1 wrestler in his weight class in the both the WIN Magazine and InterMat preseason rankings.
Zane Richards takes over the starter role at 133 pounds after redshirting last season. The Carbondale, Ill. native compiled a 19-5 record in open tournaments last year, winning the Loras and Michigan State Open and placing second at the Northern Iowa Open.
After an injury to B.J. Futrell last season, Steven Rodrigues became the starter at 141 pounds. Rodrigues earned a 30-14 overall record, including a first place finish at the Loras Open and a 14-4 major decision victory in his Big Ten dual debut. Rodrigues looks to earn the starting spot once again, and will face off with John Fahy for the role. Fahy compiled a 14-2 record in his redshirt season, including a second place finish at the Harris Open and a third place finish at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open.
Caleb Ervin returns as the starter at 149 pounds after receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships last season. The 2013 NWCA Rookie of the Year posted an overall record of 22-14, including a first place finish at the Harris Open, and placed eighth at the 2013 Big Ten Championships.
After compiling a 23-4 overall record during his redshirt season, Zac Brunson is ready to represent the Illini as a starter in 2013-14. The Eugene, Ore. native won the Michigan State and Loras Open, and placed third at the Lindenwood and Northern Iowa Open last season.
After a redshirt season in 2012-13, Jackson Morse looks to start for the Illini, this time at 165 pounds. The Alto, Mich. native joined the starting lineup at 157 pounds in January of the 2010-11 season, and started in all but four duals in 2011-12. Morse finished seventh at the Big Ten Championships in 2011 and 2012, and was selected to the Amateur Wrestling News' All-Rookie team after qualifying for the NCAA Championships in 2011. Redshirt-sophomore Matt Nora also hopes to earn a spot in the starting lineup after serving as the squad's full-time starter at 157 pounds last season. The La Grange, Ill. native tallied an overall record of 12-14 and placed second at the Northern Iowa Open.
After serving as the team's 184-pound starter for three years, Tony Dallago is moving down a weight class and will compete at 174 pounds. The three-time NCAA qualifier recorded a team-high 10 pins in the 2012-13 season, which is tied for the sixth-most in a season in school history, and moved to number three on the all-time career pins list. Dallago compiled a 21-15 overall record, including a first place finish at the Loras Open and a third place finish at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open.
Nikko Reyes and Jeff Koepke will face off for the starting role at 184 pounds for the 2013-14 season. Though Reyes, a redshirt-freshman, has yet to compete as an Illini, he boasts an impressive high school resume. The Fresno, Calif. is a two-time National High School Coaches Association Champion (2010 and 2011), as well as a Cadet National Champion (2009 and 2010). He was also crowned the Junior Nationals Champion in 2011. Koepke notched a 12-8 overall record last season, including a second place finish at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open. The redshirt-sophomore competed in two duals and placed fourth at the Northern Iowa Open.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Mario Gonzalez returns as the starter at 197 pounds. Gonzalez recorded an overall record of 18-9 last season, including a third place finish at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. The 2012 Big Ten Champion reached a career-high No. 5 ranking in W.I.N magazine, and went 4-2 at the national tournament.
Chris Lopez returns as the starter at HWT. The Chicago, Ill. native became the full-time starter last season after an injury to Pat Walker, tallying an 11-16 record. Lopez placed fifth at both the Lindenwood Open and the Northern Iowa Open.