Mountaineers Prepare for No. 7 Illinois on Friday

By Ira Green
WVU Sports Information Office

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (January 8, 2009) – The West Virginia University wrestling team is preparing for its non-conference match against No. 7-ranked Illinois, the Mountaineers’ third-straight ranked opponent, on Friday evening at the WVU Coliseum. The contest, which will be the second of a three-match homestand, is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

In the Mountaineers’ (2-2, 0-0) last match, the squad fell in a hard-fought battle to then-ranked No. 9 Lehigh, 35-3. Five of the nine matches the Mountaineers lost were decided by fewer than five points, including three 2-0 decisions. To make the match even tougher, WVU faced the most individually ranked wrestlers (5) it had seen this year.

"Just like in a tournament, you don't wrestle the finals when you're in the first match," Coach Craig Turnbull said. "You take one match at a time and you stay in the present. It isn't a whole lot different except that we wrestled what we felt was below our standard against a very good team. They did things very well and I think every time we put ourselves in that setting, we're going to get better, even if it's something we go home and are not happy about."

WVU’s lone win came from fifth-year senior David Jauregui at 149 pounds. The Santa Ana, Calif., native missed his previous dual match against Penn State due to an injury, but was able to post a 6-4 decision over Lehigh’s top wrestler in then-No. 11 ranked Trevor Chinn. Jauregui fought from being down 2-1 in the first period, forcing the match into three overtime sessions, landing the victory with an escape and a takedown. Jauregui, No. 20 in the latest InterMat rankings, owns a 3-1 overall record and is 3-0 in dual meets.

Illinois enters the match with a 5-0 mark, having last wrestled in a dual meet on Dec. 13 against Findlay and McKendree. The Fighting Illini finished the day 2-0, defeating Findlay 32-6, and then McKendree, 39-9.

"Illinois in some ways is better than the Lehigh team. They have some individuals that are probably stronger,” Turnbull commented. “It's going to be a very similar challenge for us. I did expect to have a little bit different of a lineup, but we all recognize that's part of any athletic team, especially wrestling. I'm looking forward for us to get an opportunity to get back out there and attack and see what improvements we've made and use this experience to make the individuals and our team better."

Most recently, Illinois competed at the 46th annual Midlands Championships in Chicago, Ill., on Dec. 29-30. As a team, the Fighting Illini took 10th place out of the 47 competing squads. Three individuals placed at the two-day event: 133-pounder Jimmy Kennedy (third), 184-pounder Jordan Blanton (fifth), and 174-pounder John Dergo (eighth).

Illinois is under the direction of Head Coach Mark Johnson, who has led the team to a 195-42-3 record in 17 seasons. The team finished with a 13-4 overall mark last year and earned 14th place at the NCAA Tournament.

Illinois returns nine of its 10 starters from a season ago, including two All-Americans: 157-pounder Mike Poeta (2007, 2008), who finished runner-up at the NCAAs, and Kennedy (2008).

The two programs have met seven times, with Illinois holding a 6-1 all-time advantage in the series.

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