Wrestling overcomes Penn State, Indiana

Troy Stanger

Troy Stanger

By Jon Gluskin

The wrestling team didn’t just get two Big Ten wins over the weekend – it got two Big Ten wins in dominating fashion. The Illini won 18 out of 20 matches and outscored their opponents 63-6.

“We just talked about taking care of business,” said Illinois head coach Mark Johnson. “We wanted to come out – these are two solid teams, two teams we knew if we wrestled well we were going to whip them, so we just talked about working hard and making it a conditioning day and that’s kind of what we did.”

It started Friday night when No. 14 Penn State traveled to Huff Hall. The Illini won the first five matches from No. 12 Anton Dietzen (149 pounds), No.3 Alex Tirapelle (157), No. 11 Donny Reynolds (165), No. 4 Pete Friedl (174) and No. 3 Brian Glynn (184).

Dietzen won on a major decision and Glynn was able to defeat No. 5 Eric Bradley 2-1 in the match of the day. The Illini were up 16-0.

The Nittany Lions kept hope alive when No. 13 Phil Davis (197) upset No. 9 Tyrone Byrd 6-1, and then Joel Edwards (Hwt) defeated Mike Behnke 4-1. The Illini were now in front 16-6.

That’s all the scoring Penn State would get, as No. 2 Kyle Ott (125) won on a major decision, which was followed by No. 4 Mark Jayne (133) beating No. 18 Bryan Heller 11-7, giving the Illini a 20-6 lead.

Cassio Pero (141) capped off the win for Illinois by upsetting No. 12 DeWitt Driscoll 4-2 in two overtimes, giving the Illini a 26-6 victory.

This rout of Penn State wouldn’t be the Illini’s best performance of the weekend.

The Illini came back Sunday and wrestled at home against No. 19 Indiana, winning all 10 matches, shutting out the Hoosiers and winning 37-0.

“What a shutout does, it means all 10 guys wrestled well,” Johnson said. “That’s what I think you strive for every time you go out there. I talked to the team before – I said if we wrestle well then we can win all 10 of these matches … You just talk about wrestling up to your ability. This time we talked about winning 10 matches.”

Ott won by forfeit, putting Illinois up 6 points before a match was ever wrestled. Jayne put the Illini ahead 10-0, winning 13-3 on a major decision.

Jayne’s victory gave him 99 for his career – one short of the milestone 100 win club.

Pero kept things rolling for Illinois, winning 8-1.

Dietzen, fresh off his Penn State major decision, bettered that with a pin early into the second period, and the Illini were already in complete control of the match at 19-0.

“I was kind of looking for it,” Dietzen said. “He came out there and he was really like pushing up, holding on as tight as he could, and I was afraid he was going to try to keep it close. So I felt that the first period I thought I might be able to get it, so I just started looking for it in the second and it was there.”

The 157-pound match turned into a close contest between two ranked opponents, but Tirapelle came out on top, due to riding time, winning 4-3 over No. 19 Brandon Becker.

“Penn State and Indiana have really good programs,” Tirapelle said. “This year, I think we just have a few more talented individuals – a few more guns than them – and we came ready to wrestle … I know Indiana had a couple guys out who were sick or with injuries or whatever, so those were some of their better guys. So that even made it more evident the difference between them.”

Tirapelle got the win with older brother Adam watching in the crowd. Adam is the Illini’s all-time winningest wrestler, with 127 wins from 1997-2001.

Reynolds then won his match 8-5, making the score 25-0. Friedl added a 7-5 win to the Illini’s score and Glynn followed, defeating No. 20 Andy Rios 4-3.

Byrd avoided his second upset of the weekend, winning his match 3-2.

Behnke sealed the shutout for Illinois winning a tight one 3-2.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Dietzen said. “We had a couple tough weeks before this, and we were able to learn from those and be ready for this.”

After a 17-17 tie with No. 5 Michigan, the Illini are pleased that they could come back and compete so well this weekend.

The Illini are now 14-1-1 on the season and 5-0-1 in the Big Ten. The regular season and Big Ten season closes out this week, when No. 17 Northwestern travels to Champaign on Thursday at 7 p.m. and then Illinois heads to No. 7 Minnesota, to wrestle the Golden Gophers at 2 p.m.

Five seniors will be honored Thursday, including starters Jayne, Dietzen and Glynn.

“I think these guys just believe in themselves,” Johnson said. “They know that we’re a good team and sometimes you just got to go out there and prove it and that’s what they did this weekend.”