Wrestling looks for win at home

Pete Friedl wrestles with NC State´s Kevin Gabrielson in the 171-pound match before Friedl won by technical fall 19-2 Saturday, Jan. 15 at Huff Hall. Illinois shut out NC State 40-0. Pete Friedl

Pete Friedl wrestles with NC State´s Kevin Gabrielson in the 171-pound match before Friedl won by technical fall 19-2 Saturday, Jan. 15 at Huff Hall. Illinois shut out NC State 40-0. Pete Friedl

By Jon Gluskin

The Illini look to return to winning form on Friday, bringing their No. 2 ranking and nine ranked competitors home to Huff Hall to battle with Big Ten foe Iowa.

Illinois (10-1, 1-0) looks to bounce back after a somewhat successful National Duals last weekend in Cleveland. The Illini beat then No. 22 West Virginia, No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 8 Minnesota, before falling to No.1 Oklahoma State in the finals.

Iowa has always been one of Illinois’ big rivals, and comes in this year boasting a No. 9 ranking.

“Whenever you say Iowa, in the sport of wrestling, everybody’s ears perk up,” said Illinois head coach Mark Johnson. “They’ve been the most dominant program over the last 30 years. Maybe they’re not the defending national champs or ranked No.1, but they’re still a very good program. It’s going to be a hard match for us.”

Junior Alex Tirapelle is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation for his weight class of 157. Like his coach, Tirapelle is well-aware of Iowa’s reputation in the ring.

“Iowa’s a really respectable program,” Tirapelle said. “They pretty much dominated throughout most of the nineties. They’re in good shape. They’re going to come here to wrestle. They’re going to be intense and they’re not going to give up. They’re going to wrestle the whole seven minutes of every match, no matter what the score is.”

Because of the tough competition the Illini will face, Tirapelle said the match will come down to the “swing weights,” which he said are the weight classes where both team’s wrestlers are relatively evenly matched with no sure winner going into it. Tirapelle said he expects one or two of those to decide the overall match.

The tentative lineup for the Illini is No. 2 Kyle Ott (125), No. 4 Mark Jayne (133), Cassio Pero (141), No. 16 Anton Dietzen (149), Tirapelle, No. 15 Donny Reynolds (165), No. 5 Pete Friedl (174), No. 3 Brian Glynn (184), No. 13 Tyrone Byrd (197) and No. 14 Mike Behnke (hwt).

The top match-up looks to be Glynn against No. 5 Paul Bradley of Iowa. Last weekend, Glynn beat two ranked opponents and won his 100th career win. Bradley is the 184-pound 2005 Midlands Champion.

Johnson said it takes a pretty simple concept to win.

“I think we’ve just got to wrestle up to our abilities,” Johnson said. “If we do that, we’re capable of winning the match. It’s going to be a very close match, we know that.”

Johnson said there are some things his team learned from the National Duals to use against Iowa, as well as throughout the rest of the season to obtain even more success.

“There are some things we’re working on for Illinois, not specifically Iowa – things that we knew we didn’t do very well over in those four matches that we worked on today,” Johnson said. “We’re just talking about a little bit of hand-fighting and a little bit of underneath work, some things that we didn’t do real well there – not big things, just more mental mistakes than anything else.”

“I just want us to compete hard. If we compete hard like we did last weekend, we’re going to be fine. They’re a very good team and we’ve got to wrestle well to win.”

Tirapelle also said his team will try to learn from the National Duals.

“We try to take something away from each competition – try to improve on our strengths and try to identify and isolate weaknesses and help improve upon them too,” Tirapelle said.

The match begins at 6:30 p.m. and is one of only five remaining home matches this season.