END OF FOURTH SESSION
The Illinois wrestling team will have four All-Americans in 2012, as three more wrestlers earned that prestigious honor this evening. Jesse Delgado (125) and Conrad Polz (165) split their two matches this evening and will wrestle for seventh place tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jordan Blanton (174) was very impressive in two victories to move into the consolation semifinals tomorrow. With two more victories, Blanton would take third place.
Delgado picked up a 5-2 win over #3 seed Alan Waters of Missouri to clinch his All-American spot, then dropped a close 4-3 decision to Ryan Mango from Stanford to fall into tomorrow's 7th place match against #12 Steve Bonanno of Hofstra.
At 133 pounds, #4 seed B.J. Futrell dropped an 8-2 decision to #1 Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State to move into tomorrow's consolation semifinals. Oliver controlled the match throughout in a battle of two wrestlers who had pinned their previous three opponents in this tournament. Futrell will meet #10 Chris Dardanes of Minnesota tomorrow morning, whom Futrell has beaten twice this season.
Polz battled Paul Gillespie of Hofstra through a low-scoring match that was 1-1 at the end of regulation. Polz was able to get a takedown in the first sudden victory period to take the match by a final of 3-1. He was unable to repeat the feat against unseeded Kyle Blevins of Appalachian State, who turned the tables on Polz with an overtime takedown to win 4-2. Polz faces unseeded Ben Jordan of Wisconsin tomorrow for 7th place. Polz defeated Jordan 8-6 in the Big Ten quarterfinals earlier this month.
At 174, Blanton racked up a pair of major decisions against Peter Huntley of Navy (12-3) and #6 Ryan DesRoches of Cal Poly (11-2) to move his way through the consolation bracket. Blanton battles #4 Logan Storley of Minnesota tomorrow morning, a wrestler he has yet to face this season.
Meanwhile Tony Dallago (184) and Mario Gonzalez (197) dropped their matches in the consolation round of twelve to fall just short of becoming All-Americans in their sophomore seasons.
Blanton talked with me about the mindset it took to bounce back from a tough overtime loss in the quarterfinals to move his way through the bracket tonight. Then, head coach Jim Heffernan was very upbeat about his squad boasting four All-Americans in 2012.
The Illini are tied for sixth in the team standings with Lehigh, as both squads have 57.5 points. Ohio State has moved into fifth with 60 points, while Oklahoma State is in eighth with 57 points. Penn State is well in front in the team standings, with Minnesota, Iowa and Cornell in the next three spots.
Tomorrow's first session gets underway at 10am.
PREVIEW OF FOURTH SESSION
We move from eight mats down to six for tonight's session. It's All-American night at the NCAA Wrestling championships, as the first round of consolation matches tonight determines whether a wrestler will finish in the top eight in the country at his weight class and claim All-American status. Five Illini are trying to clinch that tonight: Delgado, Polz, Blanton, Dallago and Gonzalez. B.J. Futrell has already ensured his second All-American honor as an Illini by advancing to tonight's semifinals. Futrell can finish no worse than sixth. We start a bit earlier than last night, 6:00 this evening instead of 6:30pm yesterday. Tonight's results will go a long way toward determining how the Illini finish as a team, too. They're currently in sixth place, but have Lehigh and Ohio State close behind. It will take a perfect night for Illinois to pass Oklahoma State for fifth place.
Live updates on Twitter (@bmoline11), and interviews posted here at IlliniHQ.com as I'm able to get them.
Thanks for reading.
UPDATE AFTER SECOND CONSOLATION ROUND
Eric Terrazas saw his college career come to an end, as he lost by pin to the #4 seed Donald Vinson of Binghamton in the consolation third round this afternoon. Terrazas fell short of gaining All-American status, which was one of his big goals as a senior. However, he finishes a fine Illini career with a 77-51 record, including 25-13 in his senior season.
Tony Dallago advanced to the round of 12 with a pin over #10 Jordan Swartz of Boise State in just over thirty seconds, while #7 Mario Gonzalez held on for a 4-3 win over Richard Perry of Bloomsburg.
With B.J. Futrell in the semifinals, the other five Illini still in the tournament need to win one more match this evening to ensure a top-eight finish in their weight class, and All-American status. #4 Jesse Delgado will face #3 Alan Waters of Missouri in his round of 12 matchup at 125 pounds. At 165, #9 seed Conrad Polz will battle #12 Paul Gillespie of Hofstra. Jordan Blanton is the #7 seed at 174, and he faces unseeded Peter Huntley of Navy. Unseeded Tony Dallago may have the biggest challenge, as he has to knock off #1 Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming to become an All-American. Finally at 197, #7 Mario Gonzalez will meet up with #9 Alfonso Hernandez of Wyoming.
I talked with associate head coach Mark Perry about a wild Friday session for Illinois, including some controversial calls and the challenge of facing family in this tournament. I also caught up with Tony Dallago after his big pin, and asked him about facing the #1 wrestler in the country at his weight class tonight.
As a team, the Illini remain in sixth place overall, but both Lehigh and Ohio State are nipping at their heels. Penn State has opened up a sizeable lead for the top spot over Cornell. Iowa is in third place, with Minnesota in fourth, and Oklahoma State fifth.
The evening session gets underway at 6:30pm. I'll talk to you then
UPDATE AFTER QUARTERFINALS & FIRST CONSOLATION ROUND
There were a lot of close matches early on for the Illini in this round, and the results were mixed. But, the good news is that all seven Illini wrestlers are still alive in the tournament. Illinois has just one semifinalist, B.J. Futrell as mentioned earlier. Jordan Blanton battled #2 Chris Perry of Oklahoma State to a 2-2 tie through seven minutes, then was the victim of a very tough stalling call in the tiebreakers to lose 3-2 in overtime.
Meanwhile, all four Illini in the consolation bracket advanced into the next round. Eric Terrazas needed overtime for a 4-2 victory over Josh Wilson of Utah Valley State. His three teammates enjoyed much more comfortable wins. #9 Conrad Polz earned a 7-1 decision over Cornell's Marshall Peppelman. At 184, Tony Dallago advanced with a dominating 10-0 major decision over Michigan State's Ian Hinton. Finally in the most impressive Illini performance of the round, #7 Mario Gonzalez was in charge for the entire seven minutes in a 12-3 major decsion over the #4 seed, Christian Boley of Maryland.
Terrazas, Polz, Dallago and Gonzalez all have one more match in this session, while Delgado, Futrell and Blanton don't wrestle again until the evening session. Interviews coming at the end of this session.
Good morning once again from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. We're already underway in the quarterfinals, where three Illini are competing today: Jesse Delgado at 125, B.J. Futrell at 133 and Jordan Blanton at 174. Futrell was on fire in his match, pinning Northern Iowa's Joe Colon in just 44 seconds, the fastest pin of the NCAA Championships so far. Delgado wasn't as fortunate, dropping an 8-5 decision to Kent State's Nick Bedelyon in the second set of tiebreakers. I could explain the tiebreaker process to you, but that would take up the entire blog entry. It's basically the wrestling equivalent to penalty kicks in soccer.
Jordan Blanton will be wrestling shortly, followed by four Illini in the consolation bracket: Eric Terrazas at 149, Conrad Polz at 165, Tony Dallago at 184 and Mario Gonzalez at 197.
I'll have live upates on Twitter as they happen (bmoline11) and will post interviews here and in the podcast section of IlliniHQ.com as I get them. I already talked with Futrell this morning after his pin. As you'd expect, he's pretty fired up. His opponent in the semifinals will be #1 Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State. Oliver got a major decision when the two faced off at the National Duals last month.
Thanks for reading.