Benion wrestles to Big Ten title

Benion wrestles to Big Ten title

   MINNEAPOLIS  Ernest Benion won his first Big Ten Conference championship on Sunday. Then his teammates celebrated it.

   "The team was on fire, they ignited," Illinois assistant wrestling coach Steve Marianetti said. "We''ve seen him come so close before but he was never able to get over the hump. He finally did it."

   Benion finally solved his nemesis from Iowa, top-ranked Joe Williams. The UI senior escaped from the down position in double-overtime to win the 158-pound title, 2-1.

   It was Benion''s first win in four tries against Williams, who beat the Illini 9-8 in last year''s 158-pound title match at the NCAA Championships, also in Minneapolis.

   "The match between Ernest Benion and Joe Williams was the most exciting 1-1 match I''ve ever seen," UI coach Mark Johnson said. "I think this plants some doubt in Williams'' mind heading to the NCAA Championships."

   Benion, 28-2 and four wins away from Marianetti''s school record for career wins (120), was the only UI champion  and the school''s first since Jon Llewellyn in 1991  but will be joined by seven teammates at the March 20-22 NCAAs in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Also advancing from the Big Ten meet: Lindsey Durlacher (118 pounds), Carl Perry (126), Tony Siebert (134), Jon Vaughn (142), Eric Siebert (150), Jevon Herman (177) and heavyweight Seth Brady.

   "That''s a very good number," Marianetti said. "That''s been our goal, to finish in the top four at the national tournament."

   Second-ranked Iowa captured its 24th consecutive Big Ten title with a score of 140.5 points, followed by No. 3 Minnesota with 116.5 and No. 4 Illinois with 105.5.

   "It was a pretty intense afternoon," Johnson said. "We were able to score some points in some critical matches."

   It was the UI''s best finish since 1955, when B.R. Patterson''s Illini finished third.

   Durlacher and Herman finished second Sunday.

   Durlacher lost to defending 118-pound champion David Morgan of Michigan State 9-7 in overtime. Herman lost to Ohio State''s Mitch Clark 5-3.

   Brady was third at heavyweight, Eric Siebert was fourth at 150 and Tony Siebert was fourth at 134.

   "Our goal now is to win a trophy (top-four finish) in that national tournament," Johnson said.

   Benion''s title was the UI''s 55th in Big Ten competition. Only Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State have produced more league champions.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Wrestling, Sports

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