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Illinois steamrolls to Greco-Roman title at Junior Duals

by: Roger Moore
OKLAHOMA CITY – There was a lot of down-to-the-wire drama at the 2008 Junior Greco-Roman Wrestling Duals inside Abe Lemons Arena on the campus of Oklahoma City University.

Illinois, however, was not part of it.

The 2007 champions turned in a performance for the ages in rolling to the 2008 title. Top-seeded Minnesota was no match, falling 40-22, in a Wednesday morning semifinal. A short break and Illinois ran away from upstart California, 45-18, in the championship match.

“I was almost thinking that my guys might have been over-confident (after beating second-seeded Missouri on Tuesday),? said Illinois coach Mike Powell. “I made it clear that we were coming here as the four seeds. Minnesota had almost double the seed points, so my guys kind of had that chip on their shoulder coming in.

“This is the best group of kids. When you’ve got guys taking two trains and a bus to come to practice you know you have a good group. I was wondering if they were having too much fun or are they just that good??

Illinois advanced to the finals with a decisive 40-22 victory over Minnesota. The Storm won just four bouts and took a forfeit at 285 pounds.

Jake Bellis geared up Illinois with a victory at 98 over Cadet champion Hayden Zilmer, and like the rest of the week, it was off to the races.

“I think we warmed up 100 times better than (Minnesota),? said Bellis. “We came in knowing we were going to win. After Missouri we knew we had the best team and we felt like we could beat everybody by 20 or 30 points.?

Jimmy Chase had a pin at 125 and Kent Williams, Ellis Coleman and Josh Castellano had technical falls as Illinois built a 32-5 lead through 145 pounds. Coleman dominated Dylan Ness at 135 pounds in a battle of Cadet champions.

“I knew I had a tough weight and I expected to wrestle all of them,? Coleman said. “Greco is my thing and I feel like I’m in better shape than anybody right now.

“I think we had the best team here. As the tournament was going along I noticed that we had the best guys in the lower weights and that we would be starting off all the matches up like 30-5 or something.?

The finals against the seventh-seeded Californians was more of the same as Illinois built a 29-3 lead after 140 pounds.

Williams used a front headlock for three straight turns in the third period to beat Cody Pack at 112; Lillashawn Coleman made quick work of Zach Zimmer at 119; Chase had a 23-second pin at 125 and Ellis Coleman had a technical fall against Cody Rodebaugh at 135.

By the time Dan Martin used a late third period turn to beat Tyler Sheridan at 152, the trophy was headed back to Illinois.

Ellis Coleman, who has his sights set on Northern Michigan and a future in Greco, wrestled five matches in a tough 135-pound weight class this week and recorded five technical falls.

“He’s the real deal,? said Powell, his high school coach. “He is the ultimate combination of talent and hard work. I’m not surprised by his results because I can’t find people to come and work out with him.

“He reminds me of T.C. Dantzler. He’s got that type of talent.?

A day after escaping Wisconsin, California decided to live dangerously once again in the semifinals against third-seeded Iowa.

Tied at 29 after 189 pounds, California’s Dominic Pica saved the day with a decisive third-period, 3-point throw for a 3-5, 3-1, 6-3, decision of Byron Tate. Kasey Cowan, whose dramatic win against Wisconsin closed out that dual, beat Blayne Beal to pull out a 35-31 victory.

Iowa picked up pins from Joe Colon and Andrew Long, a technical fall from George Ivanov, and a decision by Matt McDonough to take a 19-13 lead after 135 pounds.

Iowa led 23-22 after 152 when Trent Weatherman beat Sheridan in three periods. Officials debated a third-period point for Sheridan for some 20 minutes before Weatherman had his hand raised.

Dustin Reid responded with a first-period pin at 160 to put California up 27-23 before back-to-back victories by Iowa’s Tyler Kettman and Josh Ihnen sent the dual to 215.

“I was trying to stay calm (against Iowa),? said Pico, who had one of just three wins for California. “I was trying to keep my composure and find a way to win the match.

“(On Tuesday against Wisconsin) Coach came and talked to us from 160 through heavy and said we could do this. I don’t think people really took us seriously coming into the tournament and we showed what came happen when they don’t.

“It was a good tournament for us, but we didn’t really show up with our wrestling shoes on (against Illinois).?

After losing to California, Iowa, cashed it in against Minnesota, falling 52-13, in the third-place match. After Travis Rutt’s 17-second pin at 171, Iowa forfeited the final three weights. Among Minnesota’s victories was Justin Lavalle’s 3-0, 6-3, decision of Long at 130 pounds and Erick Yngsdal’s three-period win over Dylan Carew at 145.

The fifth-place match, with six forfeits, saw Kansas beat Michigan, 34-31. Missouri won the final three bouts, including a pin in the finale by Elijah Madison, in beating Wisconsin, 39-27, for seventh.

New York beat Texas in the consolation finals. Ken Altrac pinned Andy Harmony in the final bout to give NY a 33-30 victory.

For some, it’s time for a long trip home to start preparation for Fargo. For others, perhaps the crazy ones, weigh-in for freestyle is at 4 p.m. (CST).

Illinois pulled off the double in 2007, adding a freestyle title to the Greco trophy.

Freestyle hits the mats tonight with two rounds of competition. The finals are Friday.