Illinois wrestling dominates competition at Loras Open

After being told he would have to redshirt for his junior season last year, 165-pound Jackson Morse made his return to the starting lineup of the Illinois wrestling team at the Loras Open this past weekend and took full advantage of the opportunity.

Morse dominated his weight class, winning all five of his matches by technical fall. Morse said he was excited to be back in the lineup but had no intention of winning his matches in such fashion.

“I knew I wanted to go out there and work on bonus points, and the techs just came along with it,” Morse said.

Head coach Jim Heffernan was pleased with Morse’s performance but was quick to say it’s still early in the season.

“I think that part of the reason we redshirted him was to clean up some of his mistakes that he made his first couple of years,” Heffernan said. “He needed to get stronger physically and he got another year of maturing. We’ve got a long way to go, but he really looked good.”

Morse’s first-place title was one of the eight in the gold division for the Illini this past weekend. And while the team knew the competition level at the tournament was weaker compared to what they will face later in the season, head coach Jim Heffernan said he was still impressed with how his team performed.

“For the guys we brought, I thought we wrestled pretty well,” Heffernan said. “They were offensive and scored a lot of points, which is really what we are looking for.”

Redshirt senior Tony Dallago recorded two pins en route to winning his weight class, the second time he has accomplished the feat. This season, though, he dropped down a weight class to 174-pound, which he believes will help him compete for a national title. In the past Dallago has led the team in pins twice, an accomplishment he attributes to his “funky style.”

“I like to roll around a little bit with guys,” Dallago said. “I just end up catching some guys on their back and pinning them. (My style is) a little bit different because I just go with the motions, but it works for me.”

Despite the team’s success this past weekend, Heffernan said the team needs to work on how they wrestle at the edge of the mat and not giving up points at the end of periods. He thought the tournament was a good opportunity to discover issues like these, which otherwise would have been unnoticed in practice.

At the team’s next meet this Saturday at the Chicago Quad in Lombard and Frankfurt, Ill., Heffernan expects that the team will see some stiffer competition.

“It’s going to take everybody’s best effort,” Heffernan said. “They are pretty solid teams, and we better wrestle well.”

Daniel can be reached at [email protected] and @ddexter23.