Illini Wrestlers Open Season With Dual Against Missouri
Nov. 10, 1999
SEASON OPENER: The University of Illinois wrestling team will open the 1999-2000 season Friday, November 12 at 7 p.m., against the University of Missouri at Hazelwood Central High School in St. Louis, Mo.
The same two teams opened the 1998-99 season with the Fighting Illini claiming a 33-3 win. In that win, the eighth-ranked Illini won decisions in nine of the ten weight classes with Steve Doerrer (125), Dave Stoltz (133), Carl Perry (141), Adam Tirapelle (149), Griff Powell (157), Ben King (174), Nate Patrick (184), Pat Quirk (197) and Karl Roesler (Hwt) picking up wins. Bill Zeman, the Illini?s starter at 165 pounds, dropped a 7-4 decision and was the lone Illini defeat. Eight of the UI?s 10 wrestlers return to the lineup for this year?s matchup with the Tigers.
Friday?s competition will mark the 25th meeting between Illinois and Missouri. The Fighting Illini hold a 17-7 advantage in the series which dates back to the first meeting in 1928.
THE COACH: Head coach Mark Johnson is beginning his eighth season as head coach of the Fighting Illini, with a record of 78-23-1 (.770) at Illinois
Projected Starting Lineup
Head Coach Mark Johnson, entering his eighth season at the helm of the Fighting Illini, inherited a program that posted three consecutive 10th-place Big Ten finishes and placed no higher than 19th at the NCAA Championships in the previous 30 years. Enter Johnson, and the Illini squads have recorded five consecutive top 12 national finishes and placed as high as third in the powerful Big Ten.
"Has the bar been raised? No question about it!," Johnson said. "This will be my eighth year here and the sixth year that we're really a top ten team. It?s fun coming into a season knowing that you?re good, but this year is an exception because I think this year you?re going to see a great Illinois team."
That enthusiasm is spurred by depth in each weight class along with the return of eight wrestlers to a lineup which finished the 1999 season with a 13-2 dual record, a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The lineup includes returning All-Americans Adam Tirapelle at 149 and Carl Perry at 141.
"We have so much experience," Johnson said. "We have a bunch of NCAA qualifiers back and there are going to be some interesting battles to see who?s going to step out on the mats for us even with the returning NCAA qualifiers on there."
The lone loss to graduation was heavyweight Karl Roesler, a two-time All-American. Roesler finished his Illini career with 88 wins, which cracked the Illinois all-time win list. His departure will leave a hole in the lineup, but sophomore John Lockhart looks to fill that void. Lockhart was inserted into the lineup in midseason following an injury to Roesler and went 3-0 in Big Ten duals with wins over wrestlers from Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa.
"This is the first year we can really actually talk about winning the Big Ten and possibly winning the national tournament," Johnson said. "There's still a big difference between a top five team and a top ten team, and I see now it?s time for us to be in the top five."
PRESEASON RANKINGS: The University of Illinois wrestling team is ranked third in the InterMat Pre-season NCAA Division I Wrestling Rankings. The No. 3 ranking for the Illini, which return nine NCAA qualifiers, is the highest preseason ranking Illinois has achieved under Head Coach Mark Johnson.
Iowa State heads the poll, followed by by defending national champion Iowa. Defending Big Ten champion Minnesota is right behind Illinois at No. 4 and Oklahoma rounds out the top five.
Individually the Illini have eight wrestlers ranked in the 10 weight classes led by All-American Adam Tirapelle. Tirapelle is No. 2 at 149 pounds after finishing third in the nation in that weight class last season. Carl Perry, the Illini?s only other returning All-American, is ranked sixth at 141 pounds while Griff Powell (157), Bill Zeman (165), Pat Quirk (197) and John Lockhart (Heavyweight) all check in at No. 8. Nate Patrick is ranked 12th and 184 and David Stoltz checks in at No. 17 at 133 pounds to round out the rankings for the Illini.
Preseason Top 25
Illini in the Individual Rankings (Top 20)
Illini in the Individual Rankings