#6 Illinois Looks to Defend Title at Midlands Championships

Mario Gonzalez has been named the top contender at 197 pounds at the Midlands Championships.
Mario Gonzalez has been named the top contender at 197 pounds at the Midlands Championships.

Dec. 27, 2013

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#6 Illinois at Midlands Championships
Dec. 29-30 // Welsh-Ryan Arena // Evanston, Ill.

Midlands Championships Session Times
Sunday, Dec, 29
Session 1 - 9:30 a.m.
Session 2 - 7 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 30
Session 3 - Noon
Session 4 (1st/3rd/5th place) - 8 p.m.

The Midlands championship finals will air live on Big Ten Network at 8 p.m.

Quick Hits
• Reigning NCAA and Big Ten Champion Jesse Delgado has started the season 7-0, including four pins and two tech. falls. He was named Outstanding Wrestler at the `Grapple at the Garden' after winning both matches, including a decision over #2 Nahshon Garrett of Cornell. The Gilroy, Calif. native has been ranked No. 1 by both W.I.N. magazine and Intermat for seven weeks.
Tony Dallago currently holds a 10-2 record in his first season competing at 174 pounds. Dallago's two pins at the Chicago Quad gives him a career total of 34, the second most in school history. He started the season by going 4-0 to win the Loras Open, and is currently ranked the No. 15 wrestler at 174 pounds by W.I.N. Magazine.
• Two-time NCAA qualifier Mario Gonzalez is currently ranked No. 5 by W.I.N. Magazine and holds a 4-0 record, including a victory over #12 Jace Bennett of Cornell.
• Eight Illini have earned pre-seeds for the Midlands Championships, with Jesse Delgado (125) and Mario Gonzalez (197) being named the No. 1 top contenders. Jackson Morse (165) earned a No. 5 seed, while Caleb Ervin (149) was seeded No. 6. Zane Richards (133) and Zac Brunson (157) are slotted at No. 7, while Tony Dallago (174) earned a No. 8 pre-seed. Nikko Reyes (184) rounds out the list at No. 10.

No. 6 Illinois heads to Evanston, Ill., for the 51st annual Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30.

Last year, the Illini won the title for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Five wrestlers placed in the top-5, including Jesse Delgado (2nd) and Mario Gonzalez (5th).

The Midlands Championships feature some of the top teams in the country. Using W.I.N. Magazine's Dec. 16 TPI rankings, four of the top 10 and 11 of the top-25 teams in the country will compete at the event.

The sixth-ranked Fighting Illini wrestling team dropped their conference opener to #17 Wisconsin in a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle on Friday night. Each team won five individual bouts, but the Badgers scored more points to earn the 18-19 victory at the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center. The Illini got wins from #15 Tony Dallago, #5 Mario Gonzalez, #1 Jesse Delgado, Steven Rodrigues, and Matt Nora.

The Fighting Illini wrestling team competed in two events in New York last weekend, with two duals on Saturday and two on Sunday. The Illini began the weekend with two victories at the Journeymen Duals in Troy, N.Y., defeating George Mason 44-0 and #28 North Carolina State 26-15. Jackson Morse highlighted the day, winning each bout by pin and defeating #19 Nijel Jones of North Carolina State.

The squad then traveled to New York, N.Y. to compete at the `Grapple at the Garden' on Sunday, where they began the day with a 29-18 victory over #23 Bloomsburg. Caleb Ervin and Morse each came away with big wins in the matchup, as Ervin defeated #15 Bryce Busler and Morse defeated #6 Josh Veltre. In the final dual of the weekend, Illinois lost a nail-biter to #9 Cornell 15-18. Jesse Delgado highlighted the matchup, defeating #2 Nahshon Garrett, and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the event.