Johnson picks up 200th win

Johnson picks up 200th win

By Jay Lee

It was all smiles for wrestling head coach Mark Johnson and his No. 9 wrestling team as they headed into the locker room following Sunday’s dual meet at Wisconsin.

Johnson picked up his 200th win at Illinois in convincing fashion as his Illini downed No. 17 Wisconsin, 24-16.

“It’s a great time, a lot of good memories to look back on,” Johnson said of the landmark win, which comes in his 17th season at Illinois.

The Illini (10-1, 3-1 Big Ten) and the Badgers (7-7, 1-4) each won five matches, but Johnson’s squad scored bonus points in each of its five wins to secure the victory. Junior Jimmy Kennedy and freshman Jordan Blanton both pinned their opponents, and freshman B.J. Futrell, senior Mike Poeta and junior John Dergo all notched major decisions.


photo DI multimedia


Illini take down Northwestern

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“We stressed it in the locker room before the game. We knew that they matched up well against us and that there would be a good chance that we would split the matches,” Johnson said. “It came down to the bonus points, and we cleaned those up.”

The Illini took control of the match at 125 pounds, when Futrell registered a 17-4 major decision over Wisconsin’s Drew Hammen. Futrell went after Hammen from the very beginning, scoring a takedown eight seconds into the match.

“When you see your guy go out and take his guy down in a few seconds, as a coach all you can do is just sit back and smile,” Johnson said. “You’re letting the other guy know that it’s going to be a long match for him.”

Hammen escaped after Futrell rode him for 25 seconds, only to have Futrell take him down again a few seconds later, bringing the score to 4-1. Futrell notched five takedowns and a reversal in a five-minute span to bring the score to 14-3 and nearly turned his Badger opponent in the waning seconds for back points, which would have given the true freshman a technical fall.

“I go out and try to set the tone for the night,” Futrell said. “I’m always in an attack mentality.”

In the following match at 133 pounds, Kennedy gave up an escape and a takedown in the starting seconds to trail 3-0 but had Wisconsin’s Tom Kelliher pinned on his back by the end of the match. Kennedy’s win gave the Illini a 10-0 lead they would never relinquish.

“I came out flat-footed, so I was kind of playing catch up for a little bit,” Kennedy said. “I just took that extra energy and got him on his back.”

The storyline was different for the Illini’s 22-13 win over the No. 16 Northwestern Wildcats (9-5-1, 2-1-1) on Friday. Illinois shook off a slow start and an early 9-4 deficit by winning six of the 10 matches on the night.

The most anticipated matchup of the night failed to materialize, with Northwestern’s Jake Herbert notching a major decision over Illinois’ Ben Friedl at 184 pounds.

Herbert was slated to face off against Blanton, but the freshman instead wrestled up at 197, where he defeated Northwestern’s John Schoen, 11-4. Blanton took the spot of junior Patrick Bond, who was a late scratch from the lineup due to an illness.

Bond returned to the lineup for the first time in two weeks against the Badgers.

The Illini’s sweep of the two conference dual meets gives the team three straight wins since the 32-4 loss to No. 1 Iowa. “Ever since Iowa we’ve revamped out attitude, everything from practices to our work ethic in general,” Kennedy said. “We’re getting all the small things done and those start to add up.”