Illini Wrestling Earns Preseason No. 6 Ranking
With a No. 6 ranking in its annual preseason poll, the Wrestling Mall website agrees the Illini are on the right track. The website also released its individual rankings, with Illinois athletes in the Top-20 in all-10 weight classes. Junior Kyle Ott, who went to the NCAA Finals a year ago, is rated the No. 1 wrestler at 125 pounds.
The Illini team returns five All-Americans from last season, the most of any team in the country, but is rated sixth behind defending national champion Oklahoma State, Lehigh, Nebraska, Iowa State and Iowa. The team possesses a strong lineup this season with ranked wrestlers in all-10 weight classes. It all begins with returning NCAA Finalist, Ott (Huber Heights, Ohio), at 125 pounds. After bruising his way to a second-place national finish, he returns as the nation's No. 1 wrestler at his weight class. Two-time All-American Alex Tirapelle (Clovis, Calif.) is back for his junior season ranked fourth at 157 pounds an is ranked No. 4. The field at his weight class features the top-four NCAA placewinners from a year ago. He finished the season with a 35-2 record with his only losses coming at the NCAA Championships.
In addition to Ott and Tirapelle, senior Mark Jayne (133), junior Pete Friedl (174) and senior Brian Glynn (184) all return to match their All-American seasons from last year. Jayne (Elyria, Ohio) earned a No. 4 ranking after his seventh-place finish in 2004. He compiled a 32-4 mark, losing a tough quadruple-overtime in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships. Friedl (Orland Park, Ill.) is the fifth-rated wrestler at 174 pounds, while Glynn (Orland Park, Ill.) earned a No. 3 ranking at 184. He recorded 35 wins last season and has only lost matches to two returning wrestlers at his weight.
In the five remaining weight classes, Illini wrestlers are earning respect with all five rated in the Top-20. At 141 pounds, sophomore NCAA Qualifier Michael Martin (Norfolk, Va.) is ranked 12th. He finished just below the .500 mark, but recorded wins over two All-Americans during his first season. Senior Anton Dietzen (Elmhurst, Ill.) returns at 149 pounds ranked No. 16. He scored bonus points for the Illini in his first trip to the national championships and registered a 20-10 mark as a starter. A highly touted wrestler Donny Reynolds (Frankfort, Ill.) will finally break into the lineup after a knee injury suffered at the Junior World Championships kept him out in 2004. Despite only three starts in college, Reynolds earns a No. 20 ranking at 165 pounds. At 197 pounds, the Illini return a two-time NCAA Qualifier in Tyrone Byrd (Clinton, Ill.) ranked No. 14, who took last year to redshirt and gain pounds. In two seasons as a starter, Byrd is 41-27. Sophomore Mike Behnke (Villa Park, Ill.) earns a No. 18 ranking at heavyweight heading into his second year as a starter after putting up a 20-11 record in 2004.
Story courtesy the University of Illinois
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