Greetings from the University of Wisconsin. The Kohl Center is an amazing venue for the nation’s toughest conference wrestling tournament. Nine of the top 20 teams are represented in this weekend’s tournament.
Illinois had a great first day and was in fifth place. The Illini have qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA tournament: Jesse Delgado (125 pounds), Zane Richards (133), Steven Rodrigues (141), Zac Brunson (157), Jackson Morse (165), Tony Dallago (174), Nikko Reyes (184) and Mario Gonzalez (197).
Penn State led the team race and was in position to win the tournament in convincing fashion.
The goal for each Illini is to qualify for the NCAA tournament, which is in two weeks. Qualifying for the NCAA tournament is determined by placing high enough in the Big Ten tournament to automatically be entered at Oklahoma.
In some weights, the top six finishers qualify for the NCAAs, and in other weights, the top nine finishers automatically qualify. The number of qualifiers in each weight class is determined by the quality of the weight class.
After a tough season of injuries, Illinois will not be in the mix for the team title this weekend. It is the first competition this season in which the entire UI roster is competing at the same time.
Illinois has had six of its 10 starters miss matches this season due to injuries. Perhaps the most significant is Gonzalez, who has been bothered by rib and knee injuries.
The knee injury still lingers and clearly is slowing Gonzalez down this weekend. Gonzalez won his first match in overtime against Michigan’s Chris Heald. He then injury-defaulted against Minnesota’s Scott Schiller. Gonzalez competed in wrestlebacks and defeated Indiana’s Garret Goldman. The win guaranteed Gonzalez an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. He lost his last match of the evening and will wrestle for seventh place today.
Delgado will face Penn State’s Nico Megaludis in today’s final at 125. Delgado lost to Megaludis in a controversial bout earlier this season.
They have wrestled each other many times, most notably in last year’s NCAA Championships, where Delgado became a national champion.
Delgado’s semifinal match was not without controversy. Delgado defeated Iowa’s Cory Clark 4-3.
Hawkeyes fans, who are always the loudest in the stadium, booed Delgado because they thought he was stalling.
Delgado had much more offense than Clark, and he wrestled smart at the end to eke out the victory. Delgado was booed again as he left the arena floor, but he earned an impressive win.
There are a number of rules changes that are dominating much of the conversation at this year’s tournament.
The first rule change is that wrestling has joined the ranks of sports that offer instant replay. Cameras are on each mat in the arena, and coaches are given one challenge for each session of the tournament.
If coaches win a challenge and get a call overturned, they do not lose their challenge. If a challenge is not successful, a team loses the ability to challenge again in that particular session.
The other rule that does not seem clear to wrestling fans is the out-of-bounds rule. Wrestlers now can score points any time they have as much as a toenail inside the wrestling area. Both wrestlers’ bodies can be completely out of the circle, but as long as one piece of one of the wrestlers is in bounds, wrestling continues.
This is a big change from what fans have seen through the years. People are beginning to catch on, but it is definitely new for most fans. The rule makes wrestling much more exciting and increases the wrestling area.