UI freshman making up for lost time

UI freshman making up for lost time

   CHAMPAIGN  Carl Perry would have been here sooner if not for a trip to the operating table.

   When the University of Illinois wrestler finally did make his debut Saturday night at Huff Hall, the freshman proceeded to make himself right at home.

   "It''s good to be here," the 126-pounder said after rolling to a 20-8 major decision during the UI''s 34-5 rout of Big Ten Conference rival Northwestern. "I''ve got a good team, some good guys."

   If the start of Perry''s collegiate career is any indication, the sixth-ranked Illini figure to get only better with the Chesapeake, Va., native in their lineup. With Saturday''s win, Perry improved to 10-1.

   That puts him 12 victories behind team leader Lindsey Durlacher, but Perry''s got a legitimate excuse. He missed all of December and the first 10 days of January with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.

   The time off was a mixed blessing, Perry said.

   "It was bad because I wanted to be in there," he said. "But it also gave me a break. ... and I''ll be fresh when it comes to NCAA time, whereas other guys will be going through a whole season that could be kind of grueling."

   Perry ranks as the highest-profile recruit Mark Johnson has landed during his five years as UI coach. The Great Bridge High School graduate is the all-time winningest prep wrestler in Virginia history, compiling a 162-13 record and twice earning state titles.

   "A lot of (local) people have been anxious to see him," Johnson said. "I think he''s for real. He''s going to be a force for us the next few years."

   Perry and Co. were a force against a Northwestern team that just last season pressed the Illini hard before losing 19-14. In this rematch, Illinois swept the first eight matches, four by major decision.

   Have the Illini, 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten, improved that much over last year? Have the Wildcats, 3-5 and 0-3, declined that much?

   "It''s probably a combination of both," Johnson said. "They''re redshirting a couple of their better kids, so that makes a little bit of a difference.

   "Still, I don''t want to take anything away from our kids. We''re kind of distancing ourselves from some of the teams. When you''ve got teams you can beat pretty soundly, that''s what you look for  just a workmanlike, dominant performance. And that''s exactly what it was tonight."

   "I think we''re just really coming into our own," said senior 158-pounder Ernest Benion, Johnson''s first UI recruit. "This is what Mark envisioned back when he first took the job at Illinois."

   The tone Saturday night was set in the first match when Durlacher, the 118-pound All-American, scored an 11-1 major decision. Durlacher, 22-4, stretched his winning streak to a team-high eight matches. Saturday''s victory was the closest in that stretch, the Illini senior winning by between 11 and 17 points in his previous seven matches.

   Also scoring major decisions for the Illini were Eric Siebert, a 17-6 winner at 150 pounds; and Jevon Herman, a 17-8 victor at 177.

   The Wildcats escaped a shutout when 190-pounder Sam Neider pinned Karl Roesler with three seconds left in the second period.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Wrestling, Sports

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