Wrestlers win part of Big Ten title

By Jon Gluskin

Huff Hall was full of highlights and accomplishments Thursday night as the No. 3 Illini dominated No. 18 Northwestern 29-6.

Not only was it senior night, with Michael Boyd (157), Anthony Castillo (165), Mark Jayne (133), Anton Dietzen (149) and Brian Glynn (184) being honored, but the Illini made school history, winning its 15th dual meet of the season, the most ever in a single season.

“I’m pleased that we won because I was nervous,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “Those wrestlers are a much-improved team – they beat Iowa this year – we knew that there would be a lot of high school kids and we wanted to send a message that Illinois wrestling is for real.”

Jayne found out about this record-setting victory on Thursday.

“It’s pretty cool, knowing that this is the best team since I’ve been here,” Jayne said. “It shows up on our record now.”

Adding to the nostalgia of the night, Jayne became only the 12th player in Illinois history to record 100 career wins. All this came in front of 2,048 fans, the largest crowd in school history next to the Iowa match earlier this season.

The match began with the dual of the night between No. 4 Pete Friedl and No. 3 Jake Herbert. Herbert beat Friedl at the Midlands earlier this season, but this time around the contest went in Friedl’s favor. Herbert was able to keep the match close until the third period, when Friedl broke it open and won 11-4. The Illini were up 3-0.

No. 3 Glynn got another victory for Illinois, beating No. 18 Mike Tamillow 9-4.

“It was awesome for us,” Glynn said. “The atmosphere – just coming in – a lot of emotions going. I had a lot of great matches here, especially with the great crowd that turned out today; it was just really good for me, Mark and Anton – especially just to dominate the way we did.”

No. 14 Matt Delguyd (197) then got Northwestern its first points of the day, defeating No. 13 Tyrone Byrd 4-3 in a two-overtime battle. Illinois was up 6-3.

Mike Behnke scored an upset for Illinois, beating No. 15 Dustin Fox 5-3, but Northwestern refused to go away, pulling a big upset of its own. No. 10 John Velez (125) ousted No. 2 Kyle Ott 5-3, making the score 9-6.

Illinois would not yield any more points the rest of the evening, winning the remaining five matches.

First came Jayne’s historic match, scoring a major decision 13-5 over Daniel Quintela.

“Our last dual meet at Huff Hall – we’ve got a nice crowd giving me a standing ‘O’ – it felt nice,” Jayne said.

No. 19 Cassio Pero (141) added points to the board for Illinois, beating Ryan Lang 11-4. No. 12 Dietzen made sure all three seniors ended their home careers on top, pulling a major decision over Jimmy Kim, 9-1.

“It was a lot of fun,” Dietzen said. “It was neat being up in the room beforehand. We all go up there and just all of a sudden, everything’s sharp and you see all the details. You see Ott circling as fast as anybody possibly can, faking shots. You see (Alex) Tirapelle as calm as ever just laying on the mat relaxing. You just suck everything in because you know it’s the last time.”

No. 3 Tirapelle (157) kept piling on the points for Illinois, pinning opponent Mike Kimberlin in 6:22, giving the Illini a 26-6 advantage. No. 11 Donny Reynolds closed out the match with a 5-2 victory over Nick Hayes, giving Illinois the 29-6 victory.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Johnson said. “No. 1, our season’s not over. It’s probably a little sadder for them (seniors) than for me because I’m going to have these guys for more important stuff. But you see kids walk in here as kids and leave as young men and it’s neat, because really all five of them, but (especially) the three that wrestled tonight, are special – they’ve won a lot of matches for Illinois and really propelled Illinois to some special things.”

The Illini completed their undefeated Big Ten season yesterday at No. 10 Minnesota, winning 24-13, adding to the record-setting season for Illinois. This was their second win over the Golden Gophers this season, after Illinois beat them 20-15 at the National Duals on Jan. 22. Illinois finished up 16-1-1 and 7-0-1 in conference, winning its second consecutive Big Ten Dual Meet Title, sharing it with No. 5 Michigan.

Johnson was pleased to defeat Minnesota for the second time this season and the second time in his career. Minnesota has always been a nemesis.

“It was just another solid performance,” Johnson said. “Everybody stepped up. It was a good win all the way around for us.”

With victories from Friedl and Glynn, they solidified No. 1 seeds in the Big Ten Tournament, going undefeated in conference play.

“I knew going in that I was probably the favorite,” Friedl said. “I just went in, took care of business and just won. I think we wrestled pretty tough. We came away with a good win, so that’s always something to be proud of.”

In the premier match of the day, No. 4 Mack Reiter got the best of Jayne. This was only Jayne’s second loss for the season, but both were handed to him by Reiter. Reiter defeated Jayne 7-4 last time they met. Reiter ended up pinning Jayne in 2:49. Jayne was caught in a cradle, allowing the pin to take place.

Reynolds lost his match to No. 10 Matt Nagel and No. 2 Cole Konrad beat Mike Behnke.

Dietzen, Tirapelle, Byrd, Ott and Pero all came through with victories for Illinois. With Illinois in front 18-13, Pero came up huge, sealing the victory for Illinois by pinning his opponent in 5:29.

“It feels really, really good,” Pero said. “We’ve been going back to the drawing board and fixing the little mistakes that I’ve been making, and it’s finally starting to pay off.”

Since Illinois tied with Michigan 17-17 back on Feb. 6, the team has been dominating opponents, winning four consecutive Big Ten duals in convincing fashion.

“I think we’re trying to peak at the right time, towards the end of the year,” Glynn said. “We noticed that we had a few mistakes during Michigan, so obviously we worked on those. Confidence-wise and mentally, we knew that we shouldn’t have tied, so I think it really helped with something to improve on.”

Illinois won’t compete again until the Big Ten Championships March 5-6 in Iowa City. The Illini will be focusing on fine-tuning and stressing individual improvements.

“Basically, we’ll do a lot of conditioning, but also emphasize individual mistakes so we can be solid as a team in the Big Ten (Championships),” Pero said.

Johnson said the schedule has been grueling for his team, but it has prepared them for the rest of the season. The Illini have been no doubt successful thus far.

“Sixteen wins,” Johnson said. “You don’t start off shooting for that. It’s just something that kind of happens.”