Wrestling shuts out foes during Wendy’s Duals

By Ryan Dixon

The question was how many matches did the 15th-ranked Fighting Illini wrestling team lose to Cleveland State, Liberty and Ashland this weekend. The answer: zero. Nada. None.

The Illini dominated all of their opponents by shutting out, well, everyone. Illinois beat Cleveland State 37-0, Liberty 41-0 and Ashland 46-0 at the Wendy’s Duals on Sunday. Amid the Illini’s success were seven pins, two technical falls and five major decisions.

“Today was more of a training day than a competition day,” junior Mike Poeta said. “We use these matches to really work our weaknesses and really try and get after these kids.”

Senior Gabe Flores (125 pounds) gave the Illini great starts to their duals by tallying a major decision, a pin and a technical fall on the day.

“I feel like it’s a domino effect,” Flores said. “I go out there and like to get things started for the guys.”

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Sophomore Jimmy Kennedy (133) had two pins on the day to help the Illini get off to quick leads.

“Jimmy Kennedy is starting to get back in the groove and putting himself into position that he needs to be in to compete in the Big Ten season,” assistant coach Carl Perry said.

Poeta continued his perfect season with a technical fall, a decision and a pin, Sunday. Poeta said it is easy to be successful when he is surrounded by such good teammates and coaches.

“(Poeta) continues to distance himself as one of the best guys in the country,” Perry said. “This weekend he wanted to dominate and he did a good job of that.”

Despite the Illini’s domination, Perry said these duals gave them the ability to fine-tune mistakes they need corrected.

But the team will have to wait nearly two weeks for Big Ten competition, which begins Feb. 1 against the Michigan Wolverines.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to train harder than we have been training all season long,” Perry said.

The importance of having time for solid training was echoed by Poeta and Flores as well.

“We need to work on personal mistakes that we’re doing,” Flores said. “I think when we get to the Big Ten it will definitely show if we improved on those things or not.”