UPDATE AFTER FINAL CONSOLATION ROUND
Well, the Illini are done wrestling at this year's NCAA Championships.
At 125 pounds, #4 seed Jesse Delgado won his final match of the tournament over #12 seed Steve Bonanno of Hofstra to finish seventh, and become an All-American in his freshman season. I talked with Delgado after his win, and he was happy to win his final match, but disappointed to not be atop the medal stand. The good news is that as a freshman, he has three more chances for a championship, and wasn't far away this season.
It was a disappointing day for B.J. Futrell at 133 pounds. After taking an 8-1 lead in his consolation semifinal vs. #10 seed Chris Dardanes of Minnesota, the 4th seeded Futrell appeared to run out of gas. He gave up a couple of takedowns, then got pinned with :31 left in the match in a scramble situation. Despite the disappointing finish, Futrell became a two-time All-American with his 6th place finish.
Conrad Polz finished in 8th place at 165 pounds after dropping a 3-1 decision to Wisconsin's Ben Jordan. Polz lost his first match of the tournament, then battle all the way through wrestlebacks to become an All-American in his first NCAA Championships. He also wrestled the entire tournament with his left leg heavily taped, after spraining his MCL early this season.
Finally at 174, #7 seed Jordan Blanton gutted his way through a 1-0 victory over the #4 seed Logan Storley of Minnesota, getting an escape in the second period for the only point of the match. Blanton rode Storley through the entire third period to secure the victory, hanging on for dear life at one point when it appeared Storley might pick up a reversal. Then in the third place match, he faced #2 seed Chris Perry of Oklahoma State for the second time in the tournament, and fell to Perry 3-1. Blanton again fought hard, but was unable to get any offense against the younger brother of Illini associate head coach Mark Perry.
It was a disappointing session for Illinois, but a pretty good tournament overall. Head coach Jim Heffernan spoke with me after the consolation rounds and offered that assessment. Illinois will finish either 7th or 8th as a team, depending on the outcome of the heavyweight championship tonight. If Lehigh's Zach Rey wins, the Engineers will leapfrog the Illini for 7th place.
The future is bright for the Illinois wrestling program, with all four All-Americans, and all six top twelve finishers returning for next season. With no Illini in the championship round tonight, I'll sign off from St. Louis. I always enjoy covering this event, and hope you've enjoyed following along here and on twitter.
As always, thanks for reading.
Good morning one final time from the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships. If you're late to the party, you can catch up via my posts from Thursday and Friday. Illinois is tied for 6th in the team standings with Lehigh as we enter action this morning. The Illini also have four All-Americans this season, which pleased head coach Jim Heffernan when I talked with him last night.
First up will be the consolation semifinals, with B.J. Futrell facing Chris Dardanes of Minnesota at 133 pounds, followed by Jordan Blanton also facing a Gopher at 174 pounds in Logan Storley. Following the consolation semis, we will have the placing matches for seventh, fifth and third in each weight classes. There will be three matches going on at once. The outcome of the consolation semis will determine whether Futrell and Blanton are wrestling for fifth place or third. Jesse Delgado (125) and Conrad Polz (133) will be wrestling for seventh place today.
Live updates via twitter (@bmoline11), and I'll post here again after the consolations are complete.
Thanks for reading.