No. 3 wrestling heads to UNI Open, looking for improvement

By Jon Gluskin

The No.3-ranked Illinois men’s basketball team made its bid for best basketball team in the nation Tuesday night.

The No.3-ranked Illinois wrestling team gets its turn to make its case for tops in the nation Sunday.

The Illini travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to compete at the 54th Annual UNI Open, a tournament at which mostly younger Illini wrestlers participated the past two years, while the older wrestlers competed at the Las Vegas Invitational.

This year, however, both the young and old will combine their forces.

“This is something that really we look at individually,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “We’re holding probably two or three starters out this weekend, but I’m not looking at the overall team as I am looking at the improvement from individuals from two weeks ago to this next weekend.

“There’s good competition. There will be a lot of guys in there. We’ll bring our freshmen into the redshirt and amateurs tournament, which will make the tournament tougher. So, basically, it’s an individual thing for this weekend.”

Johnson said he wants his team to be more competitive this Sunday.

“We had some guys that held themselves back (at the Missouri Open),” Johnson said. “They defeated themselves; they didn’t get beat. They didn’t perform up to the level of their ability and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a total team performance – every guy performs well.”

Senior Anton Dietzen (149-pounds) finished third last year at the UNI Open and looks to do even better this time around.

“I get to work on improving from last year,” Dietzen said. “It’s a good tournament. You get a lot of matches. There are always some tough kids there. It’s my first meet of the year, so I’m excited to have it as an opener.”

Dietzen said he is looking forward to seeing how he has improved from last season.

Senior Bryan Glynn (184) competed in the UNI Open when he was a redshirt-freshman in 2000-2001. He placed fourth.

Glynn has come a long way since than and is coming off his third consecutive title at the Missouri Open, where juniors Pete Friedl (174) and Alex Tirapelle (157) were also victorious.

“I expect us to go out and compete and I expect us to win,” Glynn said. “I expect a lot of our guys to place first, but I think the main thing is just that we show improvement from (the) Missouri tournament.”

Glynn said he wants to stop the little mistakes that took place last weekend from happening again this tournament.

“I think everyone on the team knows what we’re capable of doing,” Glynn said. “I know myself and (Mark) Jayne and the seniors are looking forward to this year, and I’m really looking forward to getting a trophy at Nationals. And I think that’s where everyone on the team knows where we should be.”

The strongest competition the Illini are expected to face Sunday are host Northern Iowa and No. 13-ranked Central Michigan.

“We always talk about improvement,” Johnson said. “We don’t talk so much about winning or losing. We know if we improve and we wrestle up to our ability, great things are in our future. And so that’s what we talk about. Just performing (and) getting the most out of everybody individually.”

The Illini will return home for their first meet at Assembly Hall next Saturday against Central Missouri State at 1:00 p.m.

While the team is still up to the challenge of the UNI Open, it is not the same as the Las Vegas Invitational.

“Obviously, they’d rather be in Las Vegas – let’s be honest, we’re going to Cedar Falls, Iowa, versus Las Vegas,” Johnson said. “Hey, they’re disappointed. I’m a little disappointed. But our tradeoff was going to the National Duals (Cleveland – Jan. 22-23). We’re going to be one of the favorites for (the) National Dual meet.

“So we had to back off our schedule a little bit because I was always worried about Las Vegas because the timing came around finals. This is going to give our kids more time to prepare for their finals and really prepare for school, (rather) than miss five full days out on the road.”