Illini remain unbeaten in conference play

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Online Poster

By Jon Gluskin

Before the heavyweights New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles took the field on Sunday, two other heavyweights were battling – in a ring.

No. 2 Illinois took on No. 5 Michigan, and the match ended in a 17-17 tie, keeping Illinois unbeaten in conference play at 3-0-1.

This was part two of a busy weekend for Illinois, who manhandled Purdue on Saturday at West Lafayette, 32-6. Purdue fell to 7-9 (1-3) on the season.

Illinois won eight out of the 10 matches against Purdue, including a pin by No. 4 Mark Jayne (133 pounds), technical falls by No. 2 Kyle Ott (125) and No. 4 Pete Friedl (174) and a major decision by No. 2 Alex Tirapelle (157).

In the most exciting match of the day, No. 3 Brian Glynn (184) beat No. 15 Ben Wissel in overtime, 3-lot.

“Purdue was kind of a workmanship-like day,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “We went over there the same day, which we don’t do very often, and got it done. That’s it. I think we wrestled fairly well even in the matches we lost.”

The Illini would have a much tougher time when they traveled to Ann Arbor.

Both teams came into the match as the only undefeated teams in the Big Ten. Each one ended up winning five matches, prompting the tie.

“We were really going out for the win, but it’s better than losing I guess,” Jayne said.

Ott got the Illini off to a great start with a 14-5 major decision, giving the Illini a quick 4-0 lead. Jayne extended the lead beating No. 14 Mark Moos 5-2, and the Illini had a 7-0 lead.

Jayne and Moos are good friends and worked out together over Winter Break. Jayne said he normally beats Moos in practice.

“It was weird,” Jayne said. “It didn’t really feel like a match, it felt like practice. There was a little bit of trash-talking before, during and after.”

Then Illinois had to face four consecutive studs, and Michigan got right back into the match.

Cassio Pero (141) fell to No. 5 Josh Churella 7-2, and No. 12 Anton Dietzen (149) fell to No. 7 Eric Tannenbaum 5-3, cutting the Illini’s lead to 7-6.

The match of the day featured Tirapelle (157) and No. 4 Ryan Bertin. After a takedown by Bertin and an escape from Tirapelle, Bertin led 2-1 going into the second period. In that frame, both wrestlers scored an escape, giving Bertin a 3-2 lead. With Tirapelle unable to finish off a takedown at the end of the match, Bertin held on for the 3-2 victory, and the Wolverines took the lead, 9-7.

No. 2 Ryan Churella (165) of Michigan then dominated Anthony Castillo with a 17-1 technical fall, putting Michigan in front 14-7.

Friedl bounced back for the Illini, defeating No. 14 Nick Roy 6-3, cutting Illinois’ deficit to 14-10.

Glynn evened up the match at 14-14 with a 10-2 major decision. No. 9 Tyrone Byrd (197) put Illinois ahead 17-14 with only one match to go after his 4-2 decision, but Mike Behnke fell to No. 3 Greg Wagner and ended the match in a tie. It made Michigan’s record 11-3-1 (3-0-1).

“It was a great match,” Johnson said. “We knew that we were favored in five weights, they were favored in four and then the toss-up with Alex Tirapelle at 157 – they won the toss-up. When one of your best guys doesn’t win, it affects you, and that’s certainly what it was. Had he won, it comes down to just what we thought – they win six, we win four. It didn’t happen that way.”

Illinois’ overall record against these rivals is 23-28-1.

“It was strange,” Johnson said. “Afterwards coming home, even now – you don’t feel real horrible about it, you just don’t feel good about it. When you’re ranked second in the country, I think it’s more of a moral victory for Michigan than us.”

The Illini’s record is now 12-1-1 on the season. They get to host two conference duals this weekend, when Penn State comes to Huff Hall Friday at 7, and No. 17 Indiana comes on Sunday at 1.

“It (tie) doesn’t really mean anything,” Jayne said. “I really don’t like Michigan. It would have been nice to beat them. We’ll have a chance again in the Big Ten Championships. That’s when it starts counting.”