Illini bounce back in St. Louis match

By Brendyn Jones, Staff writer

After a team loss to Missouri in its first action of the season last weekend, the Illinois wrestling team headed to St. Louis to try to get back in the win column. 

Illinois dominated throughout the tournament, earning three titles from Andre Lee, Johnny Mologousis and Deuce Rachal.

Mologousis, competing in the 157-weight class, made his season debut for the Illini and dominated his first matchups. Mologousis started the tournament with a 4-0 win over Nate Smalling of McKendree University. He then won his next matchup against James Wimer in a major-decision 14-0. In the semifinals, he pinned his opponent and moved on to the final match.

In the final, Mologousis came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat his opponent, Missouri’s Jarret Jacques, by a score of 4-3. Mologousis was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler award for his performance. He was motivated to come away with the win and credited his defense as the reason he committed so well.

“Just being able to represent Block I on my chest for the first time,” Mologousis said, “put on a show for everybody and try to be one of the most exciting wrestlers in the tournament is always the motivation.”

Heavyweight wrestler Rachal handled his competition through the first three rounds of the tournament. He pinned all of his opponents leading to the title round.

In the final round, Rachal faced off against Luke Diener from McKendree University and won 7-1 in three rounds.

The 197-pound wrestler Lee was the third Illini who won his bracket. Lee’s first round was against fellow Illini wrestler Matt Wroblewski. Lee won in overtime 3-1 to advance to the next round. Lee then beat Ethan Sherertz of Maryville by a major decision with a score of 13-4, which put him in the championship match for the 197 -pound bracket. Lee then won the championship on a medical forfeit.

Three other Illini wrestlers won their brackets competing unattached. Freshmen 165-poundDanny Braunagel and 174-pound Zac Braunagel both won in elite brackets. Freshman 125-pound Justin Cardani won in the amateur bracket.

Head coach Jim Heffernan was very pleased across the board for his team. He saw them as more aggressive and offensive. According to Heffernan, that was a big part of why they won. He also saw the importance of defense in Mologousis’ win.

“(Mologousis) found a way to win and did great defensively, but I’d still like to see him score more points offensively,” Heffernan said. “He did his job and won the tournament and was awarded the outstanding wrestler, but I’d still like to see more offense out of him, and he’s got it; he’s capable of it.”

The team was also excited to see success across the board. Heffernan was happy that some of the guys were able to wrestle outside of the practice room and obtain real competition experience.

The Illini will head to St. Charles, Missouri, next weekend to compete in the Lindenwood Open.

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