Junior 141-pounder Ryan Prater will look to improve on his eighth-place finish from a year ago at the Las Vegas Invitational.
Dec. 2, 2009
#20 Illinois at Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
Dec. 4-5 // Star of the Desert Arena // Primm, Nev.
Illinois (2-2) Probable Lineup
125: John Deneen (3-1), Jr., Marengo, Ill.
133: Daryl Thomas (6-3), r-Fr., Edwardsville, Ill.
141: #14 Ryan Prater (3-1), Jr., Plainfield, Ill.
149: Jake Beechy (1-4), So., New Lenox, Ill.
157: Kyle Dooley (6-4), r-Fr., Monticello, Ill.
165: #17 Conrad Polz (7-3), r-Fr., Orland Park, Ill.
174: Joe Barczak (5-1), Jr., Fox Lake, Ill.
184: #9 John Dergo (7-1), Sr., Morris, Ill.
197: #17 Patrick Bond (4-1), Sr., Chesapeake, Va.
HWT: Pat Walker (8-7), r-Fr., Lombard, Ill.
After a strong freshman year, sophomore No. 9 Jordan Blanton is enjoying his move down to 174 pounds this season with a 6-1 start and four pins. His four falls are halfway to his total of eight from a year ago.
No. 9 John Dergo also has started strong in his move up to 184, holding a 7-1 record with the loss coming at the hands of No. 2 Max Askren at the Missouri dual. Dergo went 4-0 on his way to a title at the Lindenwood Open and was 3-0 in Illinois' three duals at Sprawl & Brawl.
Junior John Deneen has performed admirably after being thrust into the starting role at 125 because of an injury to B.J. Futrell. Deneen scored a major decision over Missouri's Troy Dolan before going 2-1 at Sprawl & Brawl. He's 3-1 on the season with two major decisions.
Sophomore 149-pounder Eric Terrazas battled through a tough freshman year but has burst out to a fast start this season. He's 9-0 with a first-place finish at the Lindenwood Open and a dual win over Missouri's Brandon Wiest. Terrazas didn't get his first dual win against a Division I opponent until Feb. 20 last season.
Injuries have been a big story already for the Fighting Illini, as three starters are on the shelf this weekend. B.J. Futrell (125 pounds), Eric Terrazas (149) and No. 9 Jordan Blanton have been sidelined, leading Deneen, Jake Beechy and Joe Barczak to take their places at the Las Vegas Invitational. Barczak is no stranger to the tournament, however, having subbed for Roger Smith-Bergsrud at the event at 165 last season.
Illini Travel to Las Vegas Invitational
No. 20 Illinois will make what has become an annual trip to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this weekend, but this year the event has a twist - it's actually being held approximately 38 miles from The Strip in Primm, Nev. Last year, a short-handed Illini squad finished 13th behind a 133-pound title from Jimmy Kennedy, a seventh-place finish at 184 by Jordan Blanton and Ryan Prater's eighth-place finish at 141.
The Illini have participated in the tournament in 10 of the last 13 years and have placed in the top five seven times. In addition to the placings by Blanton and Prater, the only other Illini to finish in the top eight in Vegas are John Dergo, who took sixth at 174 in 2007, and Patrick Bond, who finished fifth at 197 in 2007.
Illini Notch Early Pins
Through four tournaments and one dual, Illinois already has registered 20 pins by non-redshirting wrestlers, on pace to reach the top 10 in school history for single-season pins. The tenth-best entry on that list is 37 pins, which the Illini are well within range of. Leading the way so far are No. 9 Jordan Blanton (174) and No. 9 John Dergo (184) with four falls each. No. 18 Patrick Bond, Conrad Polz, B.J. Futrell and Marty Smith all have two pins.
The Redshirts are Coming!
After seeing Roger Smith-Bergsrud and John Wise graduate and with senior Jimmy Kennedy redshirting this season, the Illini have turned to a trio of redshirt-freshmen to fill the classes of 133, 165 and heavyweight. Daryl Thomas, of Edwardsville, Ill., Conrad Polz, of Orland Park, Ill., and Pat Walker, of Lombard, Ill., have compiled a 21-13 record thus far. Thomas finished second at the Lindenwood Open to 2009 NAIA champion Ray Stephens before dropping a close bout at Missouri. Polz was 4-2 at Lindenwood prior to his near miss at Missouri and Walker went 4-2 at Lindenwood and 3-2 at the Eastern Michigan Open.
Dergo, Blanton Switch Spots in Lineup
After both John Dergo and Jordan Blanton had strong seasons in 2009, few would've predicted the move they have executed for 2010 - switching weight classes. Dergo has bumped up to 184 pounds - where he wrestled as a true freshman, going 24-12 and placing fifth at the Big Ten Championships - and Blanton has dropped to 174 after going 27-11 with a fourth-place Big Ten finish at 184 a year ago. So far the results bear out the switch, as Blanton is 6-1 with a tournament title and a win over a ranked opponent, and Dergo is 7-1 with a tournament title and a hard-fought loss to No. 2 Max Askren (Missouri).
#17 Illinois Goes 2-1 at Sprawl & Brawl
No. 17 Illinois won two of its three duals at the Journeymen/ASICS Sprawl & Brawl, defeating Davidson 47-0 and West Virginia by a 23-15 score, while dropping an 18-15 match to Pittsburgh. Against the Panthers, the Illini won five of the 10 bouts but Pitt earned a technical fall at 141 and a major decision at heavyweight for the decisive bonus points. In the Davidson match, Illinois scored bonus points in seven bouts - including three pins and two forfeits - and against WVU, the Illini won six bouts and scored bonus points in four.
#19 Illinois Falls to #10 Mizzou, 18-16
No. 19 Illinois battled valiantly but No. 7 Nick Marable used a 3-2 win over Illini redshirt-freshman Conrad Polz to give No. 10 Missouri an 18-16 win at the Hearnes Center on Nov. 12. The Illini trailed 15-7 with only four bouts left, but Ryan Prater, Eric Terrazas and Clint Arlis all scored decisions at 141, 149 and 157 to push Illinois ahead 16-15. That set the stage for the Marable-Polz bout, which the two-time All-American narrowly pulled out for the dual win.
Arlis Keeps Busy with Heavy Load
Senior 157-pounder Clint Arlis is a prototype of a student-athlete. An architecture major, Arlis spends nearly the length of a 9-to-5 workday in class most days of the week. Whenever he has a free chunk of time, he hustles to Illinois' weight room or practice facility at Huff Hall to squeeze in a quick workout. Arlis then often spends much of his evenings in the architecture studio on campus working on projects or homework. Despite that potentially overwhelming course load, the three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection has started his final season with an impressive 7-2 mark and a third-place finish at the Lindenwood Open. He also won his match against Missouri and went 1-1 at Sprawl & Brawl.
Heffernan Takes Hold of Reins
Head coach Jim Heffernan has taken the reins of the Illinois wrestling program after former head coach Mark Johnson retired following the end of the 2009 season, but don't expect a great deal of change in the Illini program. Heffernan was with Johnson for his entire 17-year stint in Orange and Blue and has kept the coaching staff intact, promoting Carl Perry to associate head coach and Jeremy Hunter to a full-time assistant position. Three-time All-American Mike Poeta joins the group as a volunteer assistant coach while he is training for freestyle competitions.
Illinois Returns 6 NCAA Qualifiers
The Fighting Illini enter the season with six returning NCAA qualifiers from a year ago, but only five will likely see the mat for Illinois this season. Senior two-time All-American Jimmy Kennedy is planning to redshirt before moving up to 141 next year, while junior Ryan Prater is likely to be the starter at 141. Sophomore B.J. Futrell returns following an appearance at the national meet last year and classmate Jordan Blanton is in the lineup at 174 this year after wrestling at 184 a year ago. Three-time NCAA qualifier John Dergo, who was one win from an All-America honor last season, moves up to 184 and fellow three-time NCAA qualifier and senior Patrick Bond is Illinois' 197-pounder.
Illinois Signs Three For 2010
Head coach Jim Heffernan announced the signing of three of the top wrestlers in the nation for the Class of 2010 on Nov. 12. Jamie Clark, of Medina, Ohio, Jed Lightfoot, of Yorkville, Ill., and Jackson Morse, of Alto, Mich., will join the Illini squad next year. Clark is currently listed as the No. 7 overall recruit in the country by Intermat, while Morse is No. 21 overall. Lightfoot was a two-time Junior National All-American.
Clark, who hails from St. Edward High School - Heffernan's alma mater - is a two-time Ohio state champ and the top-ranked recruit in the nation at 130 pounds. He was the Outstanding Wrestler at the Freestyle Cadet Nationals in 2007 and will wrestle at 133 for Illinois.
Lightfoot was the 2009 IHSA Class 2A runner-in at 125, going 25-5 for the season. He also led Yorkville to a team runner-up finish at the 2009 IHSA Class 2A dual team state tournament. He'll wrestle either 141 or 149 at Illinois.
Morse won consecutive Michigan Division 2 state titles at 140 in 2008 and 152 in 2009, while finishing runner-up at 125 in 2007. He's the No. 2 national recruit at 152 and No. 21 overall, having won consecutive titles at the Super 32 tournament. He will wrestle 157 in college.