Illini Wrestlers Open Home Season Against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Sunday


Dec. 8, 2000

The Fighting Illini are 1-0 overall defeating Missouri 33-6 in the season-opening dual in Edwardsville, Ill. The Illini have participated in two opens and the Las Vegas Invitational since that dual, claiming the Las Vegas title outsdistancing a nationally-ranked field by nearly 50 points. Illinois crowned three champions in Vegas with Adam Tirapelle (149 pounds), Matt Lackey (165) and Nate Patrick (184) each earning titles.

Sunday's dual will mark the 19th meeting between Illinois and SIU-Edwardsville with the Illini holding an 11-6-1 advantage in the series which dates back to the first meeting in 1974. Mark Johnson is 7-0 against the Cougers as head coach of the Fighting Illini. He has faced SIUE in each season he has been at Illinois except for the 1998-99 season. The last win for the Cougars came during the 1988-89 season when SIUE won 27-13.

Head coach Mark Johnson is in his ninth season as head coach of the Fighting Illini, with a record of 93-24-1 (.789). Johnson has a career record of 113-29-3 (.787) in 11 years and is already the third-winningest coach in Illinois history, behind B.R. Patterson (100 wins) and H.E. Kenney (95 wins).

SIUE head coach Booker Benford is in his second season as head coach of the Cougers. He served as an assistant at SIUE for six seasons and is only the second head coach in the history of SIUE wrestling. He was a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA Divsion II national champion at SIUE.

The next action for the Fighting Illini will be at the Midlands wrestling tournament in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 29-30.

The fifth-ranked University of Illinois wrestling team picked up five victories in the semifinal round of the 2000 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational to cruise into the championship finals with the team title in hand. When it was over, the Illini outdistanced runner-up Nebraska 156.00-113.50.

Adam Tirapelle, the top ranked wrestler in the nation at 149 pounds, beat No. 2 Dave Esposito for the Illini's first individual title of the night. Matt Lackey then won a thrilling 4-3 decision over No. 4 Chris Martin of Virginia Tech at 165 pounds. Lackey trailed in the match 3-2 with under five seconds remaining and, from a clinch, threw Martin to his back recording a takedown as time expired. Lackey was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament for his effort.

The tournament field featured 11 of the top 22 teams in the nation including four in the top 10. This year's title is the Illini's second Las Vegas conquest in the past three years with the last win coming during the 1998-99 season.

Other placewinners for the Illini included Ben King (174 pounds) and Pat Quirk (197) who finished second at 174 pounds, Ryan Escobar seventh at 125, Ryan Berger eighth at 157 and John Lockhart fifth at heavyweight. Quirk was upended in the finals by returning NCAA champion and No. 1 ranked Brad Vering of Nebraska who needed two overtimes to escape with a 2-1 win.

The Fighting Illini are ranked fifth in the latest InterMat NCAA Division I wrestling rankings. Eight Illini individuals are also ranked, they are: Ryan Escobar, 12th (125), Adam Tirapelle, 1st (149), Ryan Berger, 18th (157), Matt Lackey, 8th (165), Ben King, 15th (174), Nate Patrick, 4th (184), Pat Quirk, 4th (197) and John Lockhart, 4th (Heavyweight).

Adam Tirapelle is 11-0 on the season and continues his climb up the career wins chart. He currently has 107 career victories and just moved past Jon Llewellyn and into sixth place on the list. Several other Illini could enter the Illini career wins Top 10 list this season. Senior Pat Quirk only needs four more victories to tie Kirk Azinger and Seth Brady's total of 91. Following Quirk is Nate Patrick with 74 career wins and John Lockhart with 68.

Adam Tirapelle tied Larry TenPas for second place on the Illini's career pins list with his fall against Aaron Reasoner of Pima C.C. at the Las Vegas Invitational. Tirapelle only needs five more falls to tie Keith Healy's career mark of 31. Also, climbing the pins chart is Nate Patrick and John Lockhart. Patrick leads this year's team with four falls and now has amassed 16 career pins. With each pin he records he will move up one spot on the chart as Bill Zeman recorded 17 falls, Mike O'Brien 18 and Eric Siebert 19. Lockhart tied volunteer assistant coach and 2000 NCAA champion Carl Perry for 10th on the list when he pinned Josh Pearce of Edinboro in the fifth-place match of the Las Vegas Invitational. Senior Ryan Escobar, who has three fall this season, now has nine in two seasons.