photo courtesy of Richard Immel
A new feature that we have had on TOM is the “All-2000’s Team” for a respective school. We will go weight-by-weight to feature the best lineup that a team could put together comprised of wrestlers that were in action from the year 2000 to now. Their career could have started in the 1990’s; they just need to have one year of competition in the 2000’s. Each wrestler that is mentioned must have competed for one postseason at their weight class (even if it wasn’t the weight they were most known for).
125 – Jesse Delgado (Gilroy, CA) 2011-15
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2014-1st; 2013-1st; 2012-7th), Two-time Big Ten Champion
Jesse started his collegiate career redshirting at Cal Poly but transferred to Illinois alongside assistant coach Mark Perry. Delgado used his defense and scrambling ability to nullify opponents offensive attacks to the tune of two NCAA titles. Unfortunately, Jesse endured an injury-plagued senior season which kept him off the podium for the only time in his career.
Second Team: Kyle Ott
133 – Jimmy Kennedy (Ingleside, IL)
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time All-American (2011-5th; 2009-5th; 2008-4th), 2007 NCAA Round of 12 finisher, 2008 Big Ten runner-up
This weight class features four multiple-time All-Americans, so there are plenty of worthy candidates, but we’ll go with Jimmy Kennedy. Jimmy started for the Illini as a true freshman and earned the ninth seed at nationals and finished in the Round of 12. A year later after appearing in the Big Ten finals, Kennedy was given the second seed at the 2008 NCAA Championships and finished fourth. He capped his career off with a fifth-place, up a weight at 141 lbs, in 2011.
Second Team: Zane Richards
141 – Carl Perry (Chesapeake, VA) 1996-00
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2000 NCAA Champion, Two-time All-American (2000-1st; 1998-7th), 1999 Big Ten third-place finisher
One of the more unlikely runs through an NCAA bracket this century occurred when eighth-seeded Carl Perry won a championship in 2000. In the quarterfinals Perry knocked off the top-seeded, returning NCAA Champion Doug Schwab (Iowa). He followed that win with an upset of fourth-seeded Mark Angle (Clarion). Both Schwab and Angle had majored Perry earlier in the 1999-00 season. Carl completed his improbable title run with a 5-3 decision over returning runner-up Michael Lightner (Oklahoma).
Second Team: Casio Pero
149 – Adam Tirapelle (Clovis, CA) 1997-01
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2001 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2001-1st; 2000-2nd; 1999-3rd), 2000 Big Ten Champion, Two-time Big Ten finalist
The oldest in the line of Tirapelle brothers that wrestled for Illinois, Adam is the only that was able to bring home an NCAA title. Adam’s NCAA Championship weight class featured world silver medalist Mike Zadick (Iowa) and US Olympian Jared Frayer (Oklahoma), among many other talented competitors. The elder Tirapelle is currently second on the Illini’s all-time wins list with 127, one behind younger brother Alex.
Second Team: Eric Terrazas
157 – Isaiah Martinez (Lemoore, CA) 2014-18
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time NCAA Champion, Four-time All-American (2018-2nd; 2017-2nd; 2016-1st; 2015-1st), Four-time Big Ten Champion
An undefeated freshman season made Isaiah Martinez the first wrestler since Cael Sanderson (Iowa State) to go through his first collegiate season without a loss. When it was all said and done, Martinez only lost three-time while wearing an Illinois singlet, though two were in the NCAA Finals. Martinez was the first Illinois wrestler to win four Big Ten crowns, an NCAA title as a freshman and left as the schools all-time leader in winning percentage with .975 (116-3).
Second Team: Mike Poeta
165 – Matt Lackey (Moline, IL) 1999-03
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, 2003 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2003-1st; 2002-2nd; 2001-3rd), Two-time Big Ten Champion, Three-time Big Ten finalist
There have been plenty of great 165 lber’s nationally since the year 2000, but one that often goes overlooked is Matt Lackey. Matt is probably best remembered for his beautiful, well-timed foot sweep of Troy Letters (Lehigh) to clinch his NCAA Championship in 2003. That win put the bow on a perfect 38-0 season for Lackey, one of only three undefeated seasons in school history.
Second Team: Conrad Polz
174 – Pete Friedl (Orland Park, IL) 2002-06
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time All-American (2006-3rd; 2005-4th; 2004-7th), 2005 Big Ten Champion, Two-time Big Ten finalist
Between this weight class and 184 lbs, there are plenty of deserving candidates for a spot on the first team. Pete Friedl was one of two Big Ten Champions for the Illini in 2005. His win over Jake Herbert (Northwestern) in the finals helped boost Illinois to a conference championship over Minnesota by a 6.5 point margin. Friedl would finish that season in fourth-place, his second of three times on the podium.
Second Team: Jordan Blanton
184 – Brian Glynn (Orland Park, IL) 2001-05
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time All-American (2005-3rd; 2004-6th), 2005 Big Ten runner-up
Another vital piece on the Big Ten Championship team of 2005 was 184 lber, Brian Glynn. As a senior, in 2005, Glynn would make Big Ten finals and went on to place third at nationals. Brian began his career at 174 lbs, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in both seasons, but it wasn’t until he bumped up to 184 that he had his most productive seasons.
Second Team: Emery Parker
197 – Pat Quirk (Hinsdale, IL) 1997-01
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time All-American (2001-2nd; 2000-8th), 1999 NCAA Round of 12 finisher, 2001 Big Ten Champion
Pat Quirk had quite the postseason during the 2000-01 season. He captured his only Big Ten title after coming in as a four seed and edging the top-seeded Owen Elzen (Minnesota) 3-2. Later at the 2001 NCAA Championships, he upset the defending national champion Brad Vering (Nebraska) in the quarters, before making the finals as a seventh seed.
Second Team: Tyrone Byrd
285 – John Lockhart (Mahomet, IL) 1999-02
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, 2001 NCAA Champion, 2001 Big Ten runner-up
In just three years, John Lockhart went from a lightly recruited, small-town kid to DI All-American for Illinois. As a junior at the NCAA Championships, Lockhart had all of the luck on his side winning four of his five matches in overtime, including three in the old “first score wins” phase of the rideout. His semifinal opponent that season, Garrett Lowney (Minnesota), had already won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics and the foe he faced in the finals Tommy Rowlands (Ohio State) would go on to win two NCAA titles.
Second Team: John Wise