Illinois comes to Rec Hall Friday night for a 7pm ET showdown with our Lions. Former Penn State National Champ Jeremy Hunter will be in the Illini corner, along with former Penn State assistant coach (and 2x NCAA Champ for Iowa) Mark Perry.
This will be a great dual. There are no less than 5 awesome matchups, with the 125 LBS headliner likely to kick things off. We're stuck again with only PSU All-Access - but if Quentin is back as the color commentator, that's not such a bad thing.
Be sure to swing back here for the Open Thread where you'll be in great hands with SWHA and Jtothep.
125 LBS - Match of the Meet #1
#2 Nico vs. #4 JR Jesse Delgado
This is a rematch of last year's national final. Nico wrestled 6 almost perfect minutes, and was painfully close to the winning takedown two or three times. Then, in a flash, it was all gone. Nico had gotten in deep on another shot, and was seconds away from winning his first national title, when Delgado, with Jeremy Hunter mere inches away in his corner, hit a funky cradle. It wasn't good enough for a pin, but the 5-point move proved the deciding points, with Delgado stealing the gold, 7-4.
Friday night is a perfect time for a little revenge. There's a lot on the line in this one. After Nico wins, it's likely that he gets the #1 seed at Big Tens, with #3 Gilman (Iowa) and #4 Delgado on the opposite side of the bracket. That probably doesn't matter one bit to Nico, but I like it - Big Tens are hard enough without having to face two top-5 guys to win the crown.
Line: NI-CO! NI-CO! NI-CO!
133 LBS - Match of the Meet #2
#15 Jimmy Gulibon vs. #11 FR Zane Richards
Richards stands at 11-2 this year, with a nice 4-2 win over Cornell's Mark Grey. He was a top recruit two years ago, same as Jimmy. Gulibon has an 8-5 win over Richards on his resume, from last season at the National Collegiate Open. This will be a great match, and critical for seeding at Big Tens.
Line: Jimmy minus 2
141 LBS - Match of the Meet #3
#2 Zpain Retherford vs. #8 SO Steven Rodrigues
This should be another good one. Rodrigues is a goer. He is long, and aggressive from neutral. But he can be ridden, too, as Mitchell Port proved in the Midlands final.
Line: Zpain minus 4
#8 Andrew Alton vs. #19 SO Caleb Ervin
The wrestling world gave a collective "huh?" last year when Ervin posted a major decision win over Goldy's Dylan Ness. It turns out Ness was battling a gimpy ankle, and Ervin finished 8th at Big Tens, though that was good enough to qualify for NCAAs. Andrew has a 6-3 victory over Ervin from last year's dual. That 6-3 margin will be a decent baseline for measuring where Andrew stands today, after surgery.
Line: Andrew minus 3
#4 Dylan Alton vs. #12 FR Zac Brunson
Brunson's 16-4 on the year, but doesn't have any signature wins. His worst loss was an 8-3 decision to Realbuto (Cornell), and he was disqualified against Ike Jordan (Wisconsin). Hard to know what Dylan will get, but I think our guy is a clear notch or two above.
Line: Dylan minus 5
#1 David Taylor vs. #12 JR Jackson Morse
This is the guy that once beat Taylor in freestyle, many, many moons ago. Morse took a redshirt last year I believe, but two years ago Taylor posted a tech fall on him. I don't see any reason to think differently now.
Line: Taylor minus 15
#3 Matt Brown vs. SR Tony Dallago
The last time Dallago was in Rec Hall, he scored a late takedown to beat Quentin Wright. That must seem like a long time ago for the Central Dauphin (717) product. In this his last go-round, Tony dropped down to 174 and started the season on fire, rolling up an 8-0 record with 3 falls, 2 techs, 1 major, and a top-10 rank. Since then, he's fallen out of the rankings, and sits at 13-4, with bad losses to Pete Renda (NC State, 11-5), Mike Dessino (Bloomsburg, by Fall), Andre Petroski (Kutztown, by Fall), and John Nething (South Dakota State, by Fall). Not too good for the former PIAA Champ. And now he gets Hulk Hands.
Line: Hulk Hands minus 8
#2 Ed Ruth vs. FR Nikko Reyes
Nikko just fell out of the rankings this week after dropping a close 3-1 decision to Michigan's Domenic Abounader. He sits at 12-5, and is about to get the So Fresh, So Clean treatment.
Line: Ed minus 12
#7 Morgan McIntosh vs. #4 SR Mario Gonzalez (doubtful) / SO Jeff Koepke
Gonzalez, the surprise 2012 Big Ten champ, injury default a while back against Purdue's Braden Atwood, and hasn't wrestled since. Last week Koepke took the mat for the Illini, and he dropped a 4-7 decision to Michigan's Chris Heald.
Line: Morg minus 5
JR Jon Gingrich vs. SO Chris Lopez
With Jimmy Lawson out for 2-3 weeks for a knee injury - whew, by the way, because it looked worse than that - big Jon ably steps into the lineup for our Lions. In his first start this year he get Lopez, who just got majored by Michigan's true frosh phenom Adam Coon, 12-3.
Line: Jon minus 5
This should be a great dual. No, Illinois doesn't stand a chance at winning, so we can watch assured of the final result. But, it won't be another 35 point blowout, either. This thing should start with a bang, and keep on rolling. Five outstanding matchups in the first five weights.
Line: Penn State minus 22.