Illinois tops Oklahoma, Cornell
Illini wins Cornell Regional to advance to semis of NWCA Duals
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Sixth-ranked Illinois won a pair of dual matches against No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 5 Cornell, to win the NWCA National Duals Cornell Regional and advance to the semifinals next weekend.
The Illini edged out five of 10 matches againstthe Sooners to win 21-18 and took six bouts to top the Big Red 19-16 to snap Cornell's 19 match win streak. Illinois improves to 16-2 overall with the 16 victories tying the most single-season dual wins for the Illini since the 2005 season.
"I couldn't be happier for our guys and coaches," Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan said. "They have worked extremely hard to get to this position and I am really proud of them. These were two very good wins against two extremely good teams. Our guys really rose to the occasion and fought hard. Beating an undefeated Cornell team in their gym was huge."
Illinois bonus points from freshman Jesse Delgado and redshirt-junior Jordan Blanton proved to be key to help move past Oklahoma in the Orange and Blue's first round match. Beginning at 125 pounds Delgado, ranked No. 6 in the nation, needed 5:57 to defeat No. 7 Jarrod Patterson and get the pin and put the Illini up an early 6-0. Fifth-ranked B.J. Futrell defeated his fourth ranked opponent this season and moved past No. 9 Jordan Keller with a 6-1 decision and pushed the score to 9-0.
"Jesse had two giant wins against two top-eight ranked guys," Heffernan said. "He did a great job of setting the tone for our team in each dual."
The Illini dropped the next three bouts as Daryl Thomas lost the 13-5 major decision to No. 4 Kendric Maple, No. 13 Nick Lester moved past No. 17 Eric Terrazas 1-0 and No. 13 Matt Lester defeated Jackson Morse with a 11-2 major decision to put the Sooners ahead on the scoreboard 11-9.
The next three matches marked three more big Ilini wins, starting at 165 pounds with No. 9 Conrad Polz. Polz recorded a victory for the Illini, defeating his third ranked wrestler this season in No. 12 Patrick Graham by a score of 3-2.
At 174 pounds, Blanton tied his career-best eight pins as he moved past Kyle Detmer in 4:34 to push the lead to 18-11 with three bouts remaining. Tony Dallago defeated Erich Schmidtke 6-3 to notch his 18th victory this season, a new personal best for the redshirt sophomore. No. 14 Mario Gonzalez (197) and Pat Walker (HWT) both dropped their matches, however the Illini won the match 21-19 and moved on to face No. 5 Cornell in the regional finals.
"Ultimately Tony clinched the Oklahoma dual with his win," Heffernan said. "He beat a very solid guy that had beaten him early last year. Tony continues to make strides and keeps improving."
The Illini wrestled one of its toughest dual meet opponents this season as they faced No. 5 Cornell in the regional final. Six Orange and Blue wrestlers were victorious as the Illini handed Cornell its first dual meet loss of the season and snapped a 19-match winning streak. Delgado and Futrell put the Illini up early as the freshman defeated No. 6 Frank Perrelli 8-3 and Futrell moved past Naryan Arujau with an 18-3 technical fall to increase his career-best winning streak to 12 in a row.
The first of only four losses for the Illini came at the 141-pound match, where Thomas lost by 9-0 major decision to Mike Nevinger. However, Terrazas (149) defeated Chris Villalonga 3-1 to record his 20th victory this season and put the Illini up 11-6. Morse dropped his bout to No. 1 Kyle Dake 6-4 but Polz tied his career best 17 victories as he moved past Marshall Peppleman 8-3.
Blanton won his second bout of the day when he defeated William George 7-6, increasing the team score to the largest margin of the dual 17-7. Cornell got on the scoreboard with wins at 184 and 197 as No. 5 Steve Bosak moved past Dallago and redshirt-senior Martin Smith lost to No. 1 Cam Simaz to inch the team score to 17-16 with one match remaining.
The Illini were deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike behavior from Smith after the match, tying the score at 16-16. In the match that determined the victory, Mario Gonzalez wrestled Meciej Jochym at heavyweight. In his first match at the weight this season, the Illini grappler defeated Jochym 8-2 to seal the Illini's spot in the National Duals semifinals.
"We moved Mario to heavyweight because of the situation," Heffernan said. "We thought it was our best chance to win. Mario is super athletic and presents a lot of problems to bigger guys. In a one match situation it made the most sense and gave us the best change to win the dual."