PARK RIDGE — Defending Big Ten baseball champion Illinois is ranked sixth in a preseason poll of league coaches, the conference office announced Tuesday.
Michigan State, which shared the 2011 regular season title with the Illini, was voted No. 1. Only the top six teams were revealed.
The coaches also selected three players from their own teams to a Players to Watch list. Representing Illinois were senior center fielder Willie Argo, junior third baseman Brandon Hohl and junior pitcher Kevin Johnson.
Wrestlers net awards. Illini redshirt sophomore Mario Gonzalez was named national Wrestler of the Week by TheMat.com. The 197-pounder moved up to heavyweight and scored the winning points for Illinois in a 19-16 victory against Cornell on Sunday in the NWCA National Duals regional final at Ithaca, N.Y.
Gonzalez's 8-2 decision helped break Cornell's 19-match winning streak and advanced the Illini to the National Duals Final Four.
Teammate Jesse Delgado was selected Big Ten Wrestler of the Week after defeating two Top 10 opponents at the National Duals regional. The Illini freshman, ranked sixth at 125 pounds, pinned ninth-ranked Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma in 5:57 and scored an 8-3 decision against fifth-ranked Frank Perrelli of Cornell.
Women's track adds five. Illini women's track and field coach Tonja Buford-Bailey announced the signings of five recruits, including the country's No. 1 high school sprinter.
Morolake Akinosun of Aurora is a two-time AAU Junior Olympic national champion. The Waubonsie Valley senior is ranked first in the Class of 2012 in the 100 and 200 meters with times of 11.42 seconds and 23.49, respectively.
Other signees include Amanda Fox of Naperville Central, the 2011 Illinois Gatorade Athlete of the Year in cross-country; Lindsey Rakosnik of Glenbard East, the 2011 USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic champion in the 1,500; Jenn DeBellis of Vancouver, Wash., the state pole vault champion; and Elexis Fuller-Stewart of Milwaukee, the state record-holder in the 100 hurdles.
Penn shares honor. Illinois forward Karisma Penn was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week, sharing the honor with Iowa's Samantha Logic.
Penn averaged 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks in victories against No. 10 Ohio State and Indiana.