Wrestling team grapples with loss of players

Brennan Caughron

Brennan Caughron

By Jay Lee

After the No. 7 Illinois wrestling team’s 32-4 loss to No. 1 Iowa, head coach Mark Johnson said his team “came out flat” and “just laid down.” Following the loss, he has had a very attentive audience.

“It’s been pretty intense this past week, no messing around,” Johnson said. “It’s been all business.”

Illinois (7-1) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., in hopes of picking up its first Big Ten win on Friday against No. 25 Purdue (11-1-1).

“It’s all about the hard work ethic this week,” junior Patrick Bond said.

“We just need to get over last weekend. We got a bad taste in our mouths, but we know we’re better than that.”

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The Big Ten Network will air the match live, with action set to begin at 6 p.m.

The big picture

The Illini will face the Boilermakers for the first time since they won 31-6 in February 2008.

“I guarantee you no one here is thinking about last year,” Johnson said.

“After a loss like (last week’s to Iowa) the best thing for you to do is to go out and move on with a big performance the next week.”

Purdue opened its Big Ten dual season on Tuesday with a 19-19 tie against No. 19 Penn State. The Boilermakers’ only dual-meet loss was a 22-12 loss to Old Dominion on Jan. 4.

“I just want effort and for the guys to compete hard,” Johnson said.

“If they go out and compete hard, good things will happen.”

149-pound class grows thin

Before the start of the season, the 149-pound weight class looked to be the deepest class for the Illini. However, a season-ending injury to senior Troy Tirapelle this month was followed by the news that sophomores Grant Paswall and Joey Kotowski will no longer be with the team.

Illinois was hoping Tirapelle would rebound from a season-ending shoulder injury last season and regain his form from his sophomore year, when he placed second in the Big Ten Championships and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Tirapelle re-injured his shoulder in December 2008 and had surgery this past month that officially ended his season and collegiate career.

Paswall filled in for Tirapelle last year, compiling a 19-11 record as a true freshman. With Tirapelle back at the start of the season, Paswall wrestled at 157 pounds for the then-injured Mike Poeta.

Paswall had been 5-6 on the season, although he has not competed since the team’s dual meets against Findlay and McKendree on Dec. 13. The sophomore was expected to compete at the Midlands Championships at the end of December but failed to make weight.

The team said Paswall left the team due to violation of team rules, while Kotowski decided to leave the team.

Illinois will now count on true freshman Eric Terrazas, who currently stands at 12-10 on the season.

“Eric is one of those kids that will go out and fight for you,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids we’ve got.”

Bond returns to shape

A bright spot in the team’s loss to Iowa was the performance of Bond, who dropped a 2-1 decision to No. 19 Chad Beatty.

Bond, who had been riding a two-match winning streak in dual meets for the first time this season, had struggled early on after having offseason shoulder surgery.

“It’s been feeling absolutely great,” Bond said. “I’ve finally been able to keep my mind off my body.”

The two-time NCAA qualifier was swept in his two matches in the dual meets against Findlay and McKendree and lost in the second round of the Midlands Championships.

“I feel myself taking gradual steps in getting back into things,” Bond said. “Hopefully I can make the jump by the end of the season when everything really counts.”