Delgado brings home his second Big Ten title


Illinois’ Jesse Delgado wrestles Michigan’s Conor Youtsey at Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 18, 2014.

By Daniel Dexter

Seven minutes weren’t enough for junior Jesse Delgado to capture his second Big Ten title; he needed double overtime.

The Illinois wrestling team traveled to Madison, Wis., this weekend for the 100th annual Big Ten Tournament. The Illini amassed 78.5 team points for a 6th-place finish, half a point behind fifth-place Nebraska. The team finished ahead of Wisconsin and Michigan, two teams it lost to during the regular season.

Delgado won his second straight Big Ten Championship over rival Nico Megaludis of Penn State by a score of 3-2. The familiar foes faced off for the second time this season after Megaludis took the first meeting at Penn State during the regular season.

In this matchup, neither Delgado nor Megaludis let up any takedowns and only scored off of escapes during regulation. The match ended up going into double overtime, where both opponents scored an escape to keep the score tied at 2-2. Delgado was then given an additional point and the victory after accumulating over a minute of riding time at the end of the second overtime period.

“Going into the second overtime, I knew he wasn’t going to take me down because he can’t really take me down,” Delgado said. “I just had to ride him out, and I did.”

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Delgado will now set his focus on the NCAA tournament, where he expects to secure his second national title.

Head Coach Jim Heffernan was impressed with how Delgado performed but expected nothing less of his top wrestler. As for how the rest of the team competed, Heffernan said the wrestlers showed signs of improvement from the regular season, but they still left points on the mat that could have led to a higher finish.

While Delgado stood atop the podium, the team’s next three highest finishers were at 5th place.

Junior Jackson Morse was one of those three wrestlers to go home with 5th. Morse made the second deepest run of the team in tournament making it into the semifinals. However in the semifinals of the deep 165-pound field, he had to take on David Taylor of Penn State, the frontrunner for wrestling’s top individual, national prize — the Dan Hodge Trophy. While Morse lost to Taylor, he rebounded in his final match with a 6-2 victory to have some momentum going into nationals.

The Illinois’ qualifiers for nationals will be determined based on their performance at the tournament. Heffernan hopes that based on the performances at the Big Ten Tournament, the team can bring multiple Illini to Oklahoma City, where the national tournament will be held.

Penn State put up 140.5 points to take home their fourth straight Big Ten title. Iowa and Minnesota followed behind them for second and third, respectively. Heffernan said those three teams have been the standard of wrestling for the past 15 years. He hopes that with the young core the team has, Illinois can join them in a few years.

“I think it shows our guys are getting better,” Heffernan said. “We won some matches that we had lost earlier in the year, and I think that’s important and shows improvement.”

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