CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – No. 15-ranked Illini wrestling is set for a pair of weekend dual meets, opening up Big Ten competition at No. 17 Rutgers on Friday evening, followed by the team’s home opener with No. 2 Iowa at State Farm Center on Sunday afternoon. Friday night’s dual against the Scarlet Knights will begin at 6 p.m. CT and will be streamed on BTN+ ($), with Sunday afternoon beginning at 3 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.
With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases on the University of Illinois campus and throughout the Central Illinois region, the University will institute a proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative-test protocol for all university sponsored events open to the public with more than 200 people in attendance beginning January 1, 2022. All guests ages 12 and older entering State Farm Center, including media, staff and premium seating patrons, will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination OR a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test taken within 72 hours of the event in the arena.
*Rankings from Intermat Team Dual rankings
- Justin Cardani (125) and Lucas Byrd (133) each earned first place finishes at the Matmen Open on December 29-30. Luke Luffman (285), Zac Braunagel (184), We Rachal (141), Danny Braunagel (165), and Christian Kanzler (149) each finished in the top eight of their respective weight classes.
- The Illini finished in fourth place out of 21 teams, earning 105 team points at the Matmen Open.
- The Illini won their first two duals of the season on December 11 taking down UT-Chattanooga and SIU-Edwardsville
- First-year head coach Mike Poeta earned his first career win on December 11, a 19-12 win over UT-Chattanooga
- Mike Bosco (285) won the Freshman/Sophomore division at the Lindenwood Open on Nov. 20, his first collegiate tournament.
- Danny Pucino (141) and Joe Roberts (157) each took fourth place in the Open Division in their respective weight classes at the Lindenwood Open. Caden Ernd (174), Dylan Connell (184) and Joey Braunagel (197) each placed in the top six in the Freshman/Sophomore division.
- Justin Cardani (125), Lucas Byrd (133), Christian Kanzler (149), and Luke Luffman (285) each took third place in their respective weight classes to begin the season at the MSU Open on Nov. 6.
- Danny Braunagel (165) and Matt Wroblewski (197) both took fourth place at the MSU Open in their respective weight classes, while DJ Shannon (174) took sixth.
- Freshmen Dylan Connell (184) and Joey Braunagel (197) both earned runner-up finishes in the freshman/sophomore division at the MSU Open, while Caden Ernd placed sixth.
- The Illini are currently ranked No. 23 in the NWCA Coaches Poll.
- Illinois returns 2021 All-Americans and fifth-place finishers Lucas Byrd (133 lbs) and Dylan Duncan (141 lbs).
- 2021 NCAA qualifiers Lucas Byrd, Dylan Duncan, Danny Braunagel, Zac Braunagel, and Luke Luffman are all returning for the Illini this season.
- Nine starters return to the expected starting lineup for the 2021-22 season. The Illini welcome in eight newcomers this season, including two transfers in Anthony Federico (Fresno State) and Luke Rasmussen (North Dakota State).
- Illinois is led by first year head coach Mike Poeta, who previously spent five years as assistant coach of the Fighting Illini before taking over the head coaching job in April 2021.
- Ed Ruth enters his first year as an assistant coach with the Illini wrestling program. Ruth (Penn State ’14) was a three-time NCAA champion and four-time Big Ten champion at 184-pounds.
- For all future home meets beginning in 2022, Illinois will compete at the State Farm Center after previously holding meets at Huff Hall.
For complete coverage of Fighting Illini Wrestling, visit FightingIllini.com, follow the Illini on Twitter (@illiniwrestling) and Instagram (illiniwrestling) and like Fighting Illini Wrestling on Facebook.