OKLAHOMA CITY — Jesse Delgado was the only Illini who wrestled on Day 3 of the NCAA Championships, but he sure made it memorable.
Delgado defeated Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett 3-2 to earn his second consecutive national title at 125 pounds.
Delgado is the best in the country, regardless of weight class, in scrambling and not allowing his opponent to score from the neutral position.
Garrett was in on Delgado’s legs at least four times during the match, but Delgado managed to keep Garrett at bay and prevent him from scoring.
“It was more just playing around,” Delgado said. “And I think Mark (Perry) saw that I had a feel for it, so the coaches started working on it with me, and I got pretty good at it.”
Delgado’s win also had a special twist this weekend. It was the first time the California native had his mom in the crowd to watch him compete in Division I.
She watched him compete in an open tournament as a redshirt freshman at Cal-Poly. “She doesn’t understand wrestling real well, but I think she understands when I get my hand raised,” Delgado said.
The victory was a nice end to the weekend for the Illini, who had one All-American.
“It kind of takes the sting out of the weekend,” said Jeremy Hunter, an Illini assistant coach and Delgado’s workout partner.
Injuries riddled the Illini all season, but many wrestlers will return next season.
UI seniors Mario Gonzalez and Tony Dallago each finished 3-2 and missed All-America honors by one match.
Dallago’s career would best be characterized by his aggressive, pinning style. He leaves Illinois with the career record for most pins by an individual.
“I am not disappointed in the way things ended at all,” Dallago said. “I had a pretty good tournament and wrestled pretty well.”
Gonzalez’s last two seasons were marred by injury. He wrestled the last two months of his career on virtually one leg. Gonzalez hurt his ribs at the Midlands tournament and sat out about a month.
When he returned, he injured his knee and had to sit out the remainder of the season, hoping to get ready for the Big Ten meet. At that meet, Gonzalez reinjured his knee and tried to do his best this weekend.
Penn State won its fourth consecutive NCAA wrestling title, holding off Minnesota 109.5-104 on Saturday night.
Oklahoma State placed third with 96.5 points, Iowa was fourth with 78.5 and Edinboro (Pa.) fifth with 62.
Penn State’s Ed Ruth won his third national title, beating No. 1 seed Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland 7-2 in the 184-pound final. Sheptock, the No. 1 seed, entered with a 32-0 record.
Penn State’s David Taylor, a four-time finalist, closed the night by defeating Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell 6-0 in the 165 final to finish with his second national title and a 34-0 record.
Minnesota could have put pressure on Penn State, but Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer beat Minnesota’s Dylan Ness in the 157 final, clinching the title for the Nittany Lions before Taylor’s match.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.