Wrestling wins three at tourney, falls to No. 1 Oklahoma State

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Jon Gluskin

It was a showdown between the top two teams in the nation. Each team won five matches. Ultimately, it was the bonus points that won the match and the tournament for Oklahoma State.

During the finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cleveland on Sunday, No. 1 Oklahoma State faced No. 2 Illinois, with Oklahoma State winning 22-15.

On Saturday, the Illini won consecutive matches against No. 22 West Virginia, No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 8 Minnesota to advance to the finals.

“It was a good trip for us,” said junior Alex Tirapelle (157). “It was tough competition. I think we made some pretty good strides.”

The victory over Minnesota was the first time head coach Mark Johnson defeated the Golden Gophers and the first time the Illini beat them since 1964.

The Illini fell behind early to Minnesota, down 3-9. Illinois then won the next five matches to take control of the contest and ended up ousting the Golden Gophers 20-15.

“It was a good win,” Johnson said. “Anytime you can jump into the finals of a tournament, it’s pretty nice.”

Up against Oklahoma State, the Illini got off to a strong start, winning the first two matches. No. 2 Kyle Ott (125) and No. 3 Mark Jayne (133) put the Illini ahead 6-0. Jayne won his match coming off his first defeat of the season against Minnesota’s No. 5 Mack Reiter.

“I know I’m better than that,” Jayne said. “I just moved on and didn’t worry about it. I was a little more motivated today (Sunday). Ever since high school I’ve hated Oklahoma State, so I came out in full force.”

Jayne got to compete in front of family and friends, since his hometown of Elyria, Ohio, is a suburb of Cleveland. He said it was good for them to have the opportunity to watch him compete.

After Ott and Jayne’s victories, Cassio Pero (141) then pulled an upset, beating No. 19 Nathan Morgan of OSU.

This was when Oklahoma State’s studs started to change the course of the match and accumulated bonus points.

No. 1 Zach Esposito, the first of State’s five top-ranked wrestlers, defeated No. 19 Anton Dietzen (149) 11-1, cutting State’s deficit to 9-4.

No. 2 Tirapelle bounced back for the Illini, winning his match and widening the gap to 12-4.

“We really looked pretty good for every match (in the Duals),” Tirapelle said. “We put a really strong front up against Oklahoma State. They just have so many guys. In order for us to beat them, we have to wrestle a very good match.”

“We wrestled hard in every match. Things happen. I think it’s good for our guys wrestling to see what they’re up against. Hopefully we’ll come out on top next time we see them.”

Bad luck then crossed Illinois’ path, when No. 13 Donny Reynolds (165) fought No. 3 Johny Hendricks of OSU. After a takedown, Reynolds led 3-1 in the final minute of play, but got injured and received two stalling calls and ended up losing on a takedown 5-3.

That match changed the momentum, and Oklahoma State won three of the final four matches to put away the Illini.

No. 1 Chris Pendleton won by a fall over No. 5 Pete Friedl (174), which put Illinois down by one, at 12-13.

Illinois’ No. 4 Brian Glynn (184), who against West Virginia reached a career milestone in getting his 100th victory, won his match against Oklahoma State, putting the Illini in front 15-13.

Jake Rosholt won on a decision over No. 15 Tyrone Byrd, which made the score 15-16, in favor of Oklahoma State.

In the final match, No. 1 Steve Mocco did what he is accustomed to doing, winning by a pin over No. 14 Mike Behnke (hwt) which gave the title to Oklahoma State.

“I think we know what it takes to be on top,” Jayne said. “We could have beaten them. It was a couple of mental errors. We’ve just got to wrestle smarter at certain points during the match.”

Despite the loss in the finals, Johnson said competing against top-tier competition should improve his team’s confidence.

The Illini return to action Friday night, where they will face Iowa at Huff Hall at 7.

“We won five matches, we lost five matches,” Johnson said. “You can’t give up bonus points. We set our goals to win – we just fell a little short.

“We had a great weekend. We didn’t get it done, but we did wrestle extremely well. I guess I’m pleased with our performance, but a little disappointed we didn’t get it done (in the finals). You can never be completely satisfied with losing.”