Tirapelle tripped up in semifinal

ST. LOUIS – Alex Tirapelle wanted to be wrestling today. He just didn''t think it would be in the morning.

The Illinois 157-pounder, who finished second at the 2003 NCAA meet, fell one match short Friday, losing in the semifinals to Ohio''s Jake Percival.

Ott earns a shot at crown

ST. LOUIS – A bum knee caused him to miss last year''s NCAA meet. Doesn''t matter to Kyle Ott anymore. Neither do his 12 knee surgeries.

The Illinois sophomore achieved a lifetime goal Friday night, advancing to the NCAA 125-pound title match with a 3-2 semifinal win against Cal Poly''s Vic Moreno.

Spring bounced for title – barely

CHAMPAIGN – In March Madness terms, it was the equivalent of losing on a jump shot at the buzzer.

Illinois'' Justin Spring carried the lead into the final event of the all-around standings at Friday''s Big Ten Championships, but defending champion Randy Monahan of Ohio State emerged with the title – by 0.075.

Illinois gives underdog no upset chance

COLUMBUS, Ohio – James Augustine went to the bench wearing a sweat-stained uniform and a wide smile.

Fifth-seeded Illinois hadn''t yet completed its 72-53 demolition of No. 12 seed Murray State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but Augustine''s Friday was done.

Postcard from Columbus: Hey, has anybody spotted Ashley Judd?

Greetings once again from Columbus, which apparently traded populations with Lexington, Ky., overnight.

Wildcat Nation invaded Friday, taking over the downtown, gobbling up tickets and gumming up traffic.

Bearcats primed for Illini

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jason Maxiell is tired of losing to Deron Williams, and he doesn''t plan on it happening Sunday.

Maxiell, Cincinnati''s 6-foot-7 junior center, played high school basketball against Williams when Williams was at The Colony High and Maxiell was at Newman Smith in Texas.

No time to rest, reminisce for Weber

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Like a lot of us, Bruce Weber doesn''t have time to watch all the basketball he''d like to this time of year.

So it happened Thursday that the Illinois basketball coach caught only a glimpse of his former team, Southern Illinois, in its first-round NCAA tournament loss to Alabama.

Illini surge to first league title since ''89 season

CHAMPAIGN – If re-establishing Illinois'' men''s gymnastics program as one of the nation''s best is a two-step process, the first part was completed with a flourish Friday at Huff Hall.

Illinois stormed from behind in the final four events and claimed its conference-best 23rd Big Ten championship. But it is the Illini''s first title since 1989, snapping the league''s longest drought.

Dikmen sets record; softball team splits

Illinois'' Ilkay Dikmen finished 23rd in the 100-yard breaststroke at Friday''s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at College Station, Texas.

The senior''s time (1 minute, 9.83 seconds) was a lifetime best, a school record and a Turkish national record.

Combs'' brush with greatness

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Colgate coach Beth Combs called the opportunity to play Tennessee today in the NCAA women''s basketball tournament "a dream come true."

Two hours after today''s 10 a.m. tipoff, she might feel otherwise. But since her once-unheralded program won the Patriot League championship March 10, the former Illini and her Red Raiders have been on a whirlwind tour that won''t be diminished no matter how ugly the score is today.