No. 8 Illinois wrestling ends regular season with convincing win over Badgers

The No. 6 Illinois wrestling team dominated conference foe Wisconsin on Friday, finishing the regular season with a 6-2 record in Big Ten play and 14-2 overall, its most wins since the 2004-05 season.

The Illini won nine bouts, cruising to a 38-3 victory at Huff Hall.

The 38 points were the most they scored against any opponent in the Big Ten this season.

“We’ve been really emphasizing that throughout the year,” head coach Jim Heffernan said. “To compete at the highest level you gotta be offensive and you gotta score points. And I think they’re understanding that and doing pretty well, for the most part.”

The start of this dual meet put that mentality on full display, as freshman Jesse Delgado, junior Daryl Thomas and junior B.J. Futrell all collected technical falls in the first three matches, giving the Illini an early 15-0 edge.

Although Wisconsin forfeited at 149, it still weighed in a wrestler so senior Eric Terrazas could compete in his final match at Huff Hall, which he won, grabbing a 7-2 exhibition decision over the Badgers’ Alex Yde.

Terrazas applauded Wisconsin’s effort to get him one last match at home.

“It just goes to show what kind of people they are over at Wisconsin,” Terrazas said. “I appreciate it. It was great to go out and wrestle seven minutes in front of this home crowd.”

Not only did the 702 Illini fans in attendance recognize Terrazas during the senior night ceremony before the meet, they also gave him a standing ovation after he walked off the mat at Huff Hall for the last time with a win, which Terrazas also was thankful for.

“This is the best place, I think, to wrestle anywhere,” Terrazas said. “And that kind of atmosphere is why I came to Illinois and what made me to wrestle hard tonight. Our fans are great. I really appreciate them coming out and supporting us on our last home meet of the year.”

After the forfeit pushed the score to 21-0, the Illini won five of the remaining six matches to close out the victory.

Now that the regular season is over, the team will shift its focus toward the postseason, with the National Duals next on the schedule. The Illini will travel to Ithaca, N.Y., to compete against American, Central Michigan, No. 3 Cornell, No. 10 Oklahoma and Purdue for a spot in the Final Four.

With the Illini following up their only two losses of the season, to No. 5 Iowa and No. 4 Minnesota, with two four-meet win streaks. Heffernan likes where his team is at.

“I think we were in a position to potentially win those two matches, but we got beat by two really good teams,” Heffernan said. “I think we beat some really good teams on the other hand. I think our guys are making progress and are really wrestling well. That’s the most important factor at this point.”

Closing out the season with four convincing wins has junior Jordan Blanton excited about the challenges left on the schedule for the Illini.

“We’re going out to win it,” Blanton said. “We got two tough teams next week, but we’re excited. We’ve had this date circled on the calendar for a long time and personally, this is my time of year.”