EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini wrestling team won seven of the possible 10 matches, including three by bonus points as they moved past No. 17 Northwestern, 24-10 to win their final conference dual of the season.
"We really wrestled pretty well and were aggressive in just about every match," head coach Jim Heffernan said. "It has been a tough stretch over the last five weeks. It is time to continue to get better physically as well as recharge mentally heading into the national duals."
The dual started at 125 pounds with No. 3 Jesse Delgado wrestling Dominick Malone. Delgado won his second consecutive conference match this weekend, as he defeated the Wildcat by a 4-0 decision to give the Illini an early 3-0 lead. At 133, senior Daryl Thomas continued the early success as he defeated Garrison White by a 14-8 decision to give him his 20th victory this season and pushed the lead to 6-0.
The Wildcats got points on the scoreboard at 141, as Steven Rodrigues took on Pat Greco. Three periods were not enough for the two, as the score was tied at 6-6 heading into sudden victory. Greco scored the takedown and the victory, 8-6. However, Caleb Ervin won his second match of the weekend, moving past Dylan Marriott by a 13-2 major decision to push the Illinois team score to 10-3.
At 157, No. 2 Jason Welch defeated Matt Nora by a 18-7 major decision to give the Wildcats four more points midway through the dual. Senior Conrad Polz won his 20th victory of the season on Sunday night, after he defeated Pierce Harger by a tough 2-0 decision to give the Illini the 13-7 lead in the team score.
The Illini scored bonus points in the next two weight classes as No. 8 Jordan Blanton defeated No. 9 Lee Munster by a 13-3 major decision at the 174 pounds while No. 16 Tony Dallago moved past Jacob Berkowitz by an 11-0 major decision to push the Illinois lead to 21-7 over the Wildcats. Blanton's victory was his third over ranked opponents this season and his third over top-10 wrestlers.
At 197, No. 14 Mario Gonzalez wrestled Northwestern's Alex Polizzi. The defending Big Ten champion moved past the Wildcat by a 5-2 decision to push the team score to 24-7 with heavyweight remaining. Chris Lopez was defeated by 2012 NCAA Qualifier and No. 7 Mike McMullan by a 6-2 decision but it wasn't enough as Illinois defeated Northwestern, 24-10.
The Orange and Blue will have a week off before traveling to Minneapolis, Minn., to compete in the NWCA National Duals finals on Sunday, Feb. 24. The Illini won the Cornell Regional last year and advanced to the finals, therefore bypassing the regional round this season.
125: #3 Jesse Delgado (ILL) dec. Dominick Malone (NU), 4-0 (3-0)
133: #10 Daryl Thomas (ILL) dec. Garrison White (NU), 14-8 (6-0)
141: Pat Greco (NU) dec. Steven Rodrigues (ILL), 8-6 SV1 (6-3)
149: Caleb Ervin (ILL) major dec. Dylan Marriott (NU) 13-2 (10-3)
157: #2 Jason Welch (NU) maj. dec. Matt Nora (ILL), 18-7 (10-7)
165: #7 Conrad Polz (ILL), dec. #10 Pierce Harger (NU), 2-0 (13-7)
174: #8 Jordan Blanton (ILL) major dec. #9 Lee Munster (NU), 13-3 (17-7)
184: #16 Tony Dallago (ILL) major dec. Jacob Berkowitz (NU), 11-0 (21-7)
197: #14 Mario Gonzalez (ILL) dec. Alex Polizzi (NU), 5-2 (24-7)
HWT: #7 Mike McMullan (NU) dec. Chris Lopez (ILL), 6-2 (24-10)