Illini sweep three weekend matches

When 133-pound Zane Richards steps onto the mat, he wants to be the first one to attack.

In his first match against Arizona State, Richards controlled the match the entire time with aggressive attacks for takedowns and back points, winning the match by technical fall. He followed his opening performance with two more victories on the day against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Ouachita Baptist, winning with scores of 18-7 and 13-5 respectively.

“Being ready to compete at a high level every time and learning how to wrestle going a hundred miles an hour every second of the match is hard to tell yourself to do the entire time,” Richards said. “I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think I’m real close to making that happen.”

Head coach Jim Heffernan was impressed with the redshirt freshman’s fast pace and explosive style of wrestling, but Richards thinks he can become even faster with his attacks by improving more on the technical and mental aspects of his wrestling.

The rest of the Illinois wrestling team also fared well in all three of its dual meets at the Chicago Quad against Arizona State, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, and Ouachita Baptist on Saturday. The team won all of the matches by scores of 27-11, 38-3, and 41-3 respectively.

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    Redshirt senior Tony Dallago competed in his first dual meet at the 174-pound weight class since his junior year of high school. In his first match, he faced Arizona State’s Kevin Radford, an opponent he previously beat at the national tournament last season. The result for this match was similar. Dallago went up 5-0 in the first period and held on for 12-10 win. He would go on to win his next two matches by pin.

    Dallago feels he isn’t getting “muscled around” as much in his new weight class. Heffernan added he believes Dallago has matured, which gives him an advantage in his matches.

    “Later on in the match, it was close and Tony was still attacking,” Heffernan said. “He was trying to score points and trying to build his lead. Those are all things that tell me he is maturing and he is an experienced kid. Obviously, the result was great, but the way he went about it was even more important to me.”

    Despite the success the team had Saturday, Heffernan did admit to being disappointed with the way John Fahy wrestled against Arizona State’s Matt Kraus.

    “I think he is a lot better than he thinks he is,” Heffernan said of Fahy. “I don’t think he competed to the level we expected him to in the first match. I think he got better throughout the day. It was a wonderful match, but he just didn’t take the opportunity into his own hands.”

    Fahy recovered from the 6-3 loss in his first match by winning his next two 5-0 and 19-7.

    Although there were some negative takeaways, Heffernan feels the team also accomplished another one of the goals the coaches had for the Chicago Quad: get more people excited about the Illinois wrestling program. The meets were held at Lincoln-Way East High School and Glenbard East High School as a way to promote the Illinois wrestling team in the Chicagoland area.

    Richards said the loud atmosphere of the meet made it more fun for him to wrestle in his first match in the lineup, and he would like to see the same from students on campus when home dual meets start.

    “Even when we were up a lot in some of these duals, I think a lot of fans were still excited to watch us wrestle,” Richards said. “I think it’s a good thing. I just think we need to get more out of our college students to change the culture of the campus. We are a very good wrestling school, and we want the students to believe that and have them come out to watch us compete during the home dual meets.”

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