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Illinois finishes fourth at Midlands, eight placewinners

12/31/2013
University of Illinois Sports Information

EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini placed fourth at the 2013 Midlands Championships after totaling 83 points, just one less point than third-place Michigan. Five Illini placed in the top-eight, as Steven Rodrigues (141) finished second, Jesse Delgado (125) placed third, Mario Gonzalez (197) finished sixth, Zac Brunson (157) placed seventh, and Christopher Lopez (HWT) finished in eighth place. Iowa took the team title with a tournament-record 187.5 points and crowned three champions.

"This weekend really took a toll on us physically," said head coach Jim Heffernan. "We were battling everything from injuries to the flu throughout the tournament. After getting upset in the semifinals, Jesse Delgado did a very good job of fighting back and getting third place. Steven Rodrigues had a great run getting to the finals and wrestled well. We had to withdraw Jackson Morse and Mario Gonzalez on the second day due to injuries, and that really hurt out team point total. We need to use the next couple weeks to get healthy and get some solid training in to get ready for Big Ten season."

Rodrigues started the day with with a 4-3 decision over No. 7 Josh Dziewa to advance to the championship match, where he squared off against top-seeded Mitchell Port of Edinboro. Port, currently the top-ranked 141-pounder in the country by Intermat, controlled the first period, taking a 5-0 lead after a takedown and three-point near fall. Rodrigues held the 2013 national runner-up to three points in the second period, making the score 8-0 going into the third. Rodrigues started the final period in the down position and scored his first point of the match with an early escape. After another takedown by Port, Rodrigues responded with an escape to make the final score 11-2. Rodrigues, who entered the tournament unseeded, defeated four seeded opponents to get to the championship match.

Delgado began the day with a 3-1 loss to fourth-seeded Thomas Gilman of Iowa, his first loss of the season, to move into the consolation bracket. In the consolation semifinals, the reigning NCAA and Big Ten champion defeated Sean Boyle of Michigan in a 12-3 major decision to advance to the third-place match. Delgado began the match by taking down No. 5 Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa), but Peters scrambled out for the escape. After another takedown, Peters responded with a reversal, but Delgado was able to escape before the end of the period, making the score 5-3 after one. Delgado began the second period in the down position and managed to escape early, while Peters did the same in period three, making the final score 6-5.

Gonzalez lost his first matchup of the day to No. 4 Braden Atwood due to an injury default. The top-seeded 197-pounder suffered an injury shortly into the first period of the semifinals, but attempted to continue after a short timeout. After being taken down less than a minute later, Gonzalez was unable to continue and moved to the consolation bracket. The Aurora, Ill., native was unable to compete in the next two consolation matches, and ended up finishing in sixth place.

Fifth-seeded Brunson suffered a loss to Chad Ryan of Columbia in the first session, but won three consolation matches to advance to the consolation quarterfinals, where he was defeated by teammate Isaiah Martinez. In the seventh-place match, Brunson squared off against Ryan once again, this time coming away with a tech. fall victory to place seventh.

Lopez's eighth-place finish is a career best, while unattached wrestler Isaiah Martinez placed fourth in his collegiate debut.

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