Seniors celebrate last night at home

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By Jon Gluskin

Over the past four seasons, Brian Glynn, Anton Dietzen and Mark Jayne have brought the Illini 258 wins.

Tonight, the senior trio will compete at Huff Hall for the final time.

“It’s weird how these seasons go by so fast,” said Illinois head coach Mark Johnson. “I’d put Anthony Castillo (165 pounds) in that bunch too because he’s been a great kid for us as well. But it’s sad – it’s amazing how quick time goes.

“It’s always sad to see a group go, especially with the amount of success that these kids have had. These are the guys that are propelling us still, obviously, through this year and they’ve been doing it for a while now. It’s always kind of a bittersweet moment for a coach to watch these young men grow up.”

The seniors will be honored prior to the match against No. 18 Northwestern.

Not only is it Senior Night, but Jayne (133) has the chance to join the elite 100 win club. With 99 wins, Jayne looks to become only the 12th Illini to ever reach that mark.

“I think since it’s the last home dual meet in my career, it’s pretty cool, but the mythical 100 doesn’t really matter too much to me right now,” Jayne said. “Maybe it will after my career, but right now a win’s a win at this point.”

While Jayne isn’t dwelling on the possible accomplishment, Johnson said it is still a feat to be proud of.

“I think we take those things in stride this time of year, because they’re not nearly as important as having success in the tournaments,” Johnson said. “But sure it’s a big accomplishment – you win 100 matches in college, that’s pretty impressive.

“Of course him and Glynn (184) are big buddies and Glynn has been busting his chops because Glynn’s ahead of him. So, yeah, I think it’s a big moment, even though Mark may not admit it. One hundred wins for a program against our type of competition is a lot of wins.”

The No. 3 Illini come into the match undefeated in the Big Ten at 5-0-1 and 14-1-1 overall. Illinois had two Big Ten wins last weekend against No. 14 Penn State and No. 19 Indiana.

Alex Tirapelle (157) doesn’t think the busy schedule will be detrimental to the team.

“I think it will be all right,” Tirapelle said. “I think we’ll be able to get a win and then have Friday and Saturday to get ready for (No. 10) Minnesota, so we’ll head up there Sunday,” Tirapelle said.

At the same time, Tirapelle does not want to overlook Northwestern.

“They’re pretty good this year,” he said. “This is one of their better teams that they’ve had the last 10 years or so. They’re going to put up a fight. I think we have a better team and just like Penn State and Indiana, if we wrestle to our potential, I think we can beat them.”

The tentative lineup for the Illini includes No. 2 Kyle Ott (125), No. 3 Jayne, No. 19 Cassio Pero (141), No. 12 Dietzen (149), No. 3 Tirapelle, No. 11 Donny Reynolds (165), No. 4 Pete Friedl (174), No. 3 Glynn, No. 13 Tyrone Byrd (197) and Mike Behnke (Hwt).

Friedl’s match is the one to watch against Northwestern. He will battle No. 3 Jake Herbert, and this match has Big Ten seeding implications. Friedl lost to Herbert 5-2 earlier this season at the Midlands Tournament.

Sunday’s match against Minnesota will close out the regular season. It begins at 2 p.m.

On Jan. 22, the Illini beat Minnesota 20-15 at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cleveland. This was the first time in Johnson’s 13 years at Illinois that he beat the Gophers.

Johnson said winning this time will take the same strategy that’s been working all season long.

“Solid wrestling, just like we have all year,” Johnson said. “If we wrestle well – we’re just a good team; we’re hard to beat and if we compete hard, which we’ve done all year, we’ll win.”

Jayne’s match up against No. 4 Mack Reiter looks to have Big Ten seeding on the line as well. Reiter handed Jayne his only loss of the season at the National Duals, although Jayne was fighting flu-like symptoms.

With one more victory, the Illini will set a new school record for most dual wins in a season at 15. Along with this season, in 1997 and 2000 the Illini won 14 duals.

The home finale begins at 7 p.m. Jayne said he should be able to win his match.

“Knowing it’s the last match here at Huff Hall, I’ll be a little sad,” Jayne said. “But hopefully we go out a winner on top.”