NU Favored To Pin Illinois (Wrestling)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

“I don’t like Illinois.”

These words from Mike Tamillow pretty much sum up the feeling of No. 8 Northwestern’s entire wresting team, set to wrestle No. 16 Illinois Friday in Champaign, Ill.

For Tamillow, the reason is personal.

“Their coach told me that I wouldn’t make their lineup for at least two years,” Tamillow said. “So I kind of want to beat them up, to tell you the truth.”

This year, NU is the favorite in the inter-state rivalry, looking for a second straight win over the Illini. In addition, the two teams constantly compete not only in matches, but also in recruiting.

Wildcat wrestlers often feel slighted by Illinois, making dual meet victories that much sweeter.

“It’s fun to beat them as a team,” top-ranked 184-pounder Jake Herbert said. “It was great to beat them last year because they’ve always, in recruiting and everything, put us down like ‘oh Northwestern sucks, we always place higher than them, we have better guys than them.’ But we’re the better team this year so it’s going to mean a lot to beat them.”

Still, the match will not be easy. While Illinois has not faced the same kind of competition NU has, they are an undefeated 4-0 on the year, compared to the Cats’ 10-3 record.

There is added significance to the match as it is NU’s first Big Ten dual meet of the season. They follow up Friday’s match with another Big Ten dual meet, against No. 5 Iowa.

“(Illinois) has got some good young wrestlers,” coach Tim Cysewski said. “We need to turn some matches around from when we wrestled them at Midlands, and it’s just going to be a hard-fought Big Ten dual. It’s no-do-over time. The matches we have coming up in the Big Ten are all tough and we have to win those matches for Big Ten seeds and national seeds.”

One match in particular to look forward to is 125-pounder Brandon Precin’s against No. 10 Gabe Flores, who is 13-0. Precin has had surprising succes as a true freshman this year, finishing eighth at the prestigious Midlands tournament and posting a 4-1 record at the National Duals on Jan. 13-14.

Still, Cysewski emphasized that all matches will be highly contested; that is what happens when Big Ten rivals go toe-to-toe.

“All the matches are going to be hard-fought; there’s no one match that I’m looking more favorable than the others,” Cysewski said. “We have to be prepared to win the tough ones.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]