Illini wrestling sweeps quad meet to begin season

Illinois+Jesse+Delgado+pins+Riders+Zach+Valcarce+during+the+wrestling+match+vs.+Rider+University+at+Huff+Hall+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+9%2C+2014.

Illinois’ Jesse Delgado pins Rider’s Zach Valcarce during the wrestling match vs. Rider University at Huff Hall on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014.

By Ethan Swanson

Illinois wrestling opened its season at Huff Hall for the first time in 16 years on Sunday in a quad meet against Rider, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Northern Illinois.

The No. 11-ranked Illinois wrestling team started the day by defeating SIUE 44-0, winning seven of its 10 matches by either a fall (technical and by pin) or major decision. After a dominating team performance to begin the meet, the Illini squared off against a Rider squad that had three wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally. Nevertheless, Illinois went on to claim eight of the 10 matches in a decisive 29-6 team win, losing its only two matches by a combined total of six points. In his match against Rider’s J.R. Wert, senior Jesse Delgado registered a technical fall with a score of 22-5, while redshirt juniors Steven Rodrigues and Jeff Koepke won their respective matches against two of Rider’s three nationally ranked members. The Illini ended the day with a convincing 37-10 team win over NIU, only dropping two matches: one by forfeit and the other by a 0-7 major decision.

“I thought we did pretty well today,” head coach Jim Heffernan said. “For the most part, we were really aggressive. There’s still just a lot of small things we need to clean up, but it’s early and that’s what this is for.”

Heffernan expressed his contentment with the entire Illinois wrestling team Sunday and especially gushed over his young talent, redshirt freshman Kyle Langenderfer and Isaiah Martinez.

“Those two guys have gigantic upside,” Heffernan said. “Langenderfer is a freaky athlete. He does stuff the right way. He turns the right way, he’s explosive, he’s got pushiness and he’s got grit.”

Langenderfer went 2-1 overall at 149 pounds Sunday afternoon, winning both his matches by a fall (one technical and one pin) while dropping his only match by one point in a 5-4 loss to Rider’s B.J. Clagon.

Martinez finished the day 3-0 at 157 pounds, claiming two of his wins by pin. Martinez entered the day ranked No. 9 nationally at 157 pounds, according to InterMat’s NCAA wrestling rankings. Both Martinez and his coach believe he solidified that ranking Sunday.

“We know exactly what we’re getting with Martinez,” Heffernan said. “We’ve seen the same thing for the past two years.”

“I think it was a good start,” Martinez said. “I’ll make my big statement when the Big Ten season comes around; then I’ll tell people I’m here to say.”

Illinois travels to Gilroy, California, Friday to face Appalachian State and Cal State Bakersfield.

Ethan Swanson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EthanSwanson88.