Wrestling ready for away Duals this weekend

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By Jon Gluskin

It’s an unwritten rule that if you go to Illinois, you hate Michigan.

Enough said.

On Sunday, the No. 2 Illinois wrestlers get their shot at beating the hated Wolverines. This is part two of a busy weekend for the Illini.

The wrestling weekend road trip kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind., when the Illini battle the Purdue Boilermakers, and then it’s off to Ann Arbor on Sunday at 1 p.m., for No. 5 Michigan.

“The first one, Purdue, shouldn’t be too difficult for us,” said senior Mark Jayne (133). “We’ve just got to go out there and wrestle like we should and it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for us.

“On Sunday we’ve got Michigan, which they’re one of the top Big Ten teams, so we’re looking to go out there pretty strong and hopefully take it to them.”

The Illini are 11-1 on the season and 2-0 in conference play. They are coming off a dominating 25-7 performance over No. 9 Iowa last Friday at Huff Hall.

“Obviously after last weekend our guys have a lot of confidence in themselves, because I don’t think we were at 100 percent,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “I think we’re going to be much more at 100 percent for this weekend, and we’ve just got to take care of business – keep doing the little things right that we’ve been doing, and we’re going to be ok.”

The tentative starters for the Illini this weekend are No. 2 Kyle Ott (125), No. 4 Jayne, Cassio Pero (141), No. 12 Anton Dietzen (149), No. 2 Alex Tirapelle (157), No. 11 Donny Reynolds (165), No. 4 Pete Friedl (174), No. 3 Brian Glynn (184), No. 9 Tyrone Byrd (197) and Mike Behnke (hwt).

Purdue is 7-8 on the season. The Illini are 9-3 against Purdue under Johnson and beat the Boilers 26-9 last season. Illinois has beaten Purdue six consecutive times.

The Illini have not had as much success against Michigan, and Johnson’s teams are only 3-6 against them. Michigan beat Illinois in the season opener last year 13-19. Overall, Illinois is 23-28 against Michigan.

Key match-ups to keep an eye on are No. 12 Dietzen vs. No. 11 Doug Withstandley of Purdue, and No. 2 Tirapelle vs. No. 4 Ryan Bertin of Michigan.

This season, the Illini have had a very successful campaign thus far, so Jayne thinks they just need to do what has been working.

“(If) we just go out there like we did in our previous match against Iowa, and just go out there with that intensity and toughness, we should be able to win,” Jayne said.

After a huge win, a letdown is always possible. However, Johnson seems pretty confident that will not be the case this weekend.

“You keep them focused, and say ‘hey guys, we know at anytime, the Big Ten is so tough, that if you’re not on, you can get beat by anybody,'” Johnson said. “We see that by what’s happening this year and as a coach, you just don’t allow that (letdown) to happen.”

Johnson thinks Michigan will present a test similar to Iowa, making for a competitive match.

“Michigan is going to be a great test for us,” Johnson said. “Purdue has some individuals who are going to test us. I think it’s up to Illinois. If we wrestle well, we’re going to win. But I think Michigan is going to be a match a little bit like Iowa, so we’re in for a tough match and it’s just going to come down to whoever wrestles better that day is going to win that match.”

Not only does Jayne wrestle for Illinois, but he’s also from Elyria, Ohio, which gives him another reason to hate the Wolverines.

“Everyone hates Michigan,” Jayne said. “Especially me – I’m from Ohio and used to be a Buckeye fan.”