Jeff Scott: NCAA meet, Day 1 report

Jeff Scott: NCAA meet, Day 1 report

OKLAHOMA CITY — Believe it or not, there is another national tournament going on this weekend.

The NCAA Wrestling Championships are being held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of Kevin Durant and the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.  

The Illini have wrestlers competing in eight of the 10 weight classes. The atmosphere is wonderful, the competition fierce and the results are full of upsets.  

Illinois started the tournament with a respectable first round.  Nine matches were wrestled, and the Illini finished the morning with a 6-3 record.

Mario Gonzalez, a senior 197-pounder who is battling a serious knee injury, won his pigtail match with an 11-4 decision against Iowa State’s Blake Rosholt.  

Besides Gonzalez, other UI first-round winners were defending NCAA champion Jesse Delgado (125), Zane Richards (133), Zac Brunson (157), Tony Dallago (174) and Nikko Reyes (184).

The second round, the round of 16, started well for the Illini, too.

Delgado won his bout against Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance, 6-1. Delgado got a takedown at the end of the first period to take a 2-0 lead. After exchanging escapes, Delgado got a second takedown to push the lead to 5-1. After a riding-time point at the end of the match, Delgado comfortably moved on to Friday’s quarterfinal match. He will face Iowa’s Cory Clark.  

Richards, the Illini’s 133-pound redshirt freshman, almost pulled off a colossal upset. Richards, who is seeded 14th, went up against Iowa’s Tony Ramos, the third seed.

Richards wrestled a physical match. He pushed Ramos to the end, taking him into overtime, but lost a 5-3 decision to move into the consolation bracket.

The Illini continued to struggle through the second round, losing the remainder of their championship matches. Illinois has six wrestlers alive in Friday’s action.  

The atmosphere this year is quite good. However, as the tournament moves farther west, teams like Penn State and Cornell are not quite as well represented with fans as in years past.

Penn State continues to lead the tournament and is seeking its fourth consecutive national title.

Oklahoma State, the local team of interest, is doing well, too. The Cowboys finished the first day in second place, 3.5 points behind Penn State. Illinois was in 16th place.