Wrestlers prepare for first home tourney

By Jon Gluskin

Even though the Orange Krush won’t be there to harass the opponents, the Illinois wrestling team looks to have no problem handling Central Missouri State in its first home tournament of the season on Saturday.

“Everybody likes to compete at home,” said Illinois head coach Mark Johnson. “I don’t care if it’s a home court, home field, home mat, whatever. You’re sleeping in your own bed, you’re not traveling. It’s a big advantage. We don’t have that many home opportunities. We only got six or seven home meets during the year – you’ve got to take advantage and wrestle hard in front of your home fans and your family.”

This meet will be the first dual meet of the season for the Illini, which means they will be scored as a team, as well as individually.

“I pretty much expect all of us to win,” said sophomore Donny Reynolds (165 pounds). “Central Missouri State, they’re not really a great team, but they’re going to do a good job of getting us ready for the dual-meet season.”

Central Missouri State is a Division II school, but Johnson expects them to still be tough competitors.

“We know that team-wise we’re not going to be challenged this meet, so again I look for individual improvements, that sometimes you’ve got to go out and take care of business,” Johnson said. “This should be a very workmanship-like meet.

“They’re a good, competitive Division II team, but we’re a good Division I team, and there’s just a big difference of kids. I’m not taking anything away from them – I expect them to battle at every weight class, and I expect our guys to come out fighting and win.”

Senior Mark Jayne (133) said he wants to be more offensive this weekend.

“I’d like to open up a little more on offense,” Jayne said. “Maybe do a couple more things than I usually do, like go out there and go for the pin.”

Reynolds said it will be important for his team to wrestle up to its potential.

“I know that this team is obviously not one of the top-ranked opponents, but it’s important for us to go out, wrestle our best and compete like we should be able to,” Reynolds said. “Being at home, I think it helps out a lot. You’ve got a lot of people that you know. You’ve got the crowd cheering for you. I think it’s definitely a positive for our team, especially for our first dual meet at home.”

The match begins at 1 p.m. at Huff Hall.

Jayne said individual improvements are going to help his team be successful.

“I don’t really know much about these guys (Central Missouri St.),” Jayne said. “So I’m going to go out hard and try and dominate them.”

The Illini’s following tournament will be the Midlands at Evanston, Ill. Dec. 29-30. The Illini said this Saturday’s tournament will be helpful in preparing for the more competitive Midlands and the rest of the dual-meet season.

“Dual meets put pressures on guys, different pressures than tournaments,” Johnson said. “So it’s very important to be able to handle that pressure because those dual meets are what get you your ranking for the end of the season. Each dual meet’s important. I don’t overlook anything. I look for each guy to have a good performance in this meet.”

Illini Marine Honored

A former Illinois wrestler, Jon Vaughn, will be making a special appearance at the meet. Vaughn recently received a Purple Heart from the U.S. Marines for his time in Fallujah, Iraq in November.

Vaughn suffered injuries to his hand and leg in battle there, was sent to a German hospital to recover and recently returned to the Unite States.

Vaughn was a member of the Illinois wrestling team from 1994 to 1997, where he was a four-time NCAA Qualifier at 134 and 142 pounds. Along with being honored on Saturday, there will be photos of Vaughn from his time at Illinois and in the Marines that will be placed in the Illini wrestling room on the third floor of Huff Hall.