Delgado held mental edge over Megaludis

By Alex Roux

Illinois wrestler Jesse Delgado won his second consecutive Big Ten wrestling title Sunday.

Facing a high-pressure, double overtime situation against rival Nico Megaludis of Penn State, the 125-pound Delgado remained confident until the end of his 3-2 victory.

“Going into the second overtime, I knew (Megaludis) wasn’t going to take me down because he can’t really take me down,” Delgado told The Daily Illini.

I love confident statements like that. Not cocky. Not clichéd. Just honest.

It was the perfect interview middle ground between tight-lipped Bill Belichick and brazen Richard Sherman. Delgado gave a straight-up answer that translates roughly to: “I’m better than that guy in that situation, and there’s no way I was going to lose to him.”

At this point in their respective careers, Delgado has to be in Megaludis’ head. The two regularly go head-to-head on the mat and each have multiple wins to show for it. But recently Delgado has had Megaludis’ number when it counts. Megaludis was eliminated at the hands of Delgado in the last two Big Ten Tournaments along with last year’s NCAA championship match.

Delgado should be confident. He’s wrestled Megaludis enough to know what his rival can and can’t do. As the major titles have piled up, I imagine that Delgado believes Megaludis can’t beat him on the big stage. Megaludis’ futility in championship matches is reminiscent of the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s, though not as prolonged or dramatic. The Bills made it to four straight Super Bowls but couldn’t get over the hump and lost all four.

Having confidence can play a huge role in any sport, but it can be especially prevalent in an individual sport like wrestling. There are no teammates to fall back on for support. It’s just you and your opponent, and a wrestler has to be confident in their ability to come out on top.

Maybe the tables will turn in the upcoming NCAA championships. Megaludis is a great wrestler in his own right and has made it to two straight NCAA national finals matches. Don’t be surprised to see a Delgado-Megaludis rematch in the NCAA finals in Oklahoma City on March 22.

After winning Illinois’ first individual national title in 10 years, Delgado has stormed through the 2013-14 season, compiling a 22-2 record. He has momentum going into the NCAA championships and has a great chance to repeat as NCAA champion.

Last Sunday almost certainly won’t be the last time we see Delgado and Megaludis face off on the mat. They both compete at 125 pounds, and they’re both juniors. As two of the premier wrestlers in the conference, they’re bound for a collision course several times next year.

You can’t turn on ESPN these days without hearing a debate about which NBA player reigns supreme, LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Basketball is a team game, but that doesn’t stop the one-on-one comparisons or intense regular-season games between the two. Much like Durant, Megaludis has gaudy statistics and enjoys success that most others in his sport don’t. But like LeBron, Delgado is dominant and has the titles to show for it, and that’s why he has the edge.

Alex is a sophomore in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @aroux94.