Delgado, mates ready for Big Tens

Delgado, mates ready for Big Tens

MADISON, Wis. — Illinois coach Jim Heffernan has fond memories of wrestling at the home of the Badgers. During his Iowa career, he won the Big Ten title when the meet was at Wisconsin.

Not that his current wrestlers will hear about it.

“The Big Tens were up there my senior year,” Heffernan said. “They draw good crowds. Wisconsin has been a pretty competitive program for a long time.”

Big Ten coaches seed the conference meet, which runs Saturday and Sunday at the Kohl Center. Illinois’ Jesse Delgado is seeded No. 2 at 125 pounds.

“Jesse is as ready as he’s going to be,” Heffernan said. “The kid trains right and lives right. He’s been through this thing two times before. He has a handle on how to get himself ready.”

Four Illini earned top-four seeds.

“It was fairly similar to what we thought they would be,” Heffernan said.

Heffernan’s team faced a difficult schedule in 2013-14 by design, including a spot in the National Duals.

“We tried to make it tough on them so they are prepared for these next two tournaments,” Heffernan said.

The biggest issue for the Illinois squad has been its health.

“Individually, we’ve done some very good things,” Heffernan said. “Collectively, we haven’t been together enough to do something great.”

To finish close to the top, Heffernan said his wrestlers will need to meet or exceed their seeds.

Big Ten coaches will tell you it is the best conference meet in the country and great preparation for the NCAA meet two weeks down the road in Oklahoma City.

“It’s crazy how deep it is with individuals,” Heffernan said. “It’s crazy how deep the teams are. It seems like it gets better every year.”

Three things to look for at the Big Ten meet

1. An Illini champion. One of Jim Heffernan’s wrestlers has brought home the big trophy at the last two Big Ten meets. Illinois has won eight titles in the last 10 meets. The best bet this year is defending NCAA and Big Ten champion Jesse Delgado at 125.

2. Plenty of NCAA qualifiers. For both Illinois and the Big Ten. The league has been alloted 74 qualifying spots, which ties for its all-time best. The Big Ten will send nine heayweights to the NCAA meet and eight at 133, 157, 165 and 195.

3. A conference title for Penn State or Minnesota. Those two are the heavy favorite going into the meet.