2024-2025 Early NCAA D1 Lineup Looks

2024-25 Illinois Wrestling Early Lineup Look

2024-25 Illinois Wrestling Early Lineup Look

A breakdown of the potential starting lineup for the 2024-25 Illinois wrestling team.

Jul 3, 2024 by Kyle Klingman

"It has arrived."

That’s how Illinois coach Michael Poeta describes his team for the upcoming year. Poeta will have his strongest line-up during his third season thanks to the return of five probable starters and two key transfers. 

“I actually thought this was going to be the line-up last year with (Lucas) Byrd being out, both Braunagels being out, and the decision on redshirting Kannon Webster. Luke Luffman got hurt so that’s just an unfortunate thing during the season that you don’t have control over. 

“I think strong team after strong team is coming. The pieces are here but with the redshirts, I had to be patient. It’s here right now. I kind of want to fast forward until November because I think we have a really good product.”

Below is a breakdown of each weight class with insights from Poeta.

125: Ramazan Attasauov

Attasauov is a transfer from Iowa State who qualified for the 2022 NCAA Championships at 133 then got hurt the following year and didn’t wrestle after January 8. 

Poeta on Attasauov: “There are a lot of good European-born wrestlers in the Chicago-land area that we have a connection with. He was just going to move on from wrestling and he moved to Chicago and started coaching. Through that connection, we started talking and he said he wanted to wrestle again and it just kind of started from there. 

“There was no recruiting process. It was just us being around him, him being done with wrestling, and then him bringing it up about using his last year. We rolled from there.

“Byrd said he wanted to go 133 so when we were recruiting Ramazan we said the deal breaker was it had to be 125. He hopped on the scale right there and he weighed 138 pounds.”

133: Lucas Byrd

Byrd returns to the line-up following a redshirt season and hasn’t wrestled a competitive match since a 3-3 tiebreaker on March 17 loss to Ohio State’s Jesse Mendez during the Round of 12 at the 2023 NCAA Championships. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native is a two-time All-American, finishing fifth at nationals in 2021 and 2022. 

Poeta on Byrd: “He’s a different person. Byrd always trains really hard. He was all in but he’s somehow thrown himself in even more. He is so laser-focused right now. He has unbelievable training partners with the world-class guys we have down low. He’s hungry to improve and get better. He’s impressed me this summer. 

“He’s an introvert. He’s a homebody. Nothing wrong with that. I’m the same way. His training has always been there but he’s becoming a leader. I’m noticing a positive change in him.” 

141: Danny Pucino or Will Bassinger

Pucino is a returning national qualifier and front-runner but Poeta says Bassinger is clawing for the spot. 

Poeta on Pucino and Bassinger: “It elevates you. There’s always an extra sense of motivation if practice ends and you see the guy at your weight coming for you doing extra stuff and you get off your ass and do extra stuff, too. There’s a potential threat there. (Bassinger) is a legit guy. The competition of your teammates is going to elevate you to compete against the wrestle of the country.”

149: Kannon Webster

Webster posted a 16-1 redshirt freshman season, including six wins as the starter during duals. The Toulon, Illinois, native will be a fan favorite and a crucial part of the team’s future. 

Poeta on Webster: “I knew the whole time we would redshirt him (last season). It was in his best interest with the Braunagels redshirting, Byrd being out, and Luffman getting hurt. I want to save him for his best years. 

“Kannon lives in the wrestling room. He should probably pay us rent money more than his apartment. You pop in that room at any time and Kannon Webster is doing something: watching film, an extra circuit, extra wrestling. He just wants to be around wrestling.”

157: Jason Kraisser

Another Iowa State transfer, Krasser reached the Round of 16 at the 2023 NCAA Championships. 

Poeta on Kraisser: “We knew we needed a 157-pounder. Jason popped up and we were all over him immediately.”

165: Braeden Scoles and Caden Ernd

Scoles moves up from 157 and Ernd went 1-2 in duals last season at 165. 

Poeta on Scoles and Ernd: “They’re both unproven but hungry kids that I know could do well. They’re probably the least-known kids on our team, but I wouldn’t consider it as any type of hole. I think it’s a place where they could surprise people.”

174: Danny Braunagel

Braunagel returns from an Olympic redshirt where he finished fourth in the 77 kg Greco-Roman mini-tournament at the Olympic Trials. He is a three-time 165-pound national qualifier seeking his first podium finish. All-American Edmond Ruth was at this weight last season. 

Poeta on Danny Braunagel: “He took an Olympic year for Greco and his leg attacks are better, his shots are better and he’s better on top. It doesn’t even make sense. He trained a completely different style and it had nothing to do with grabbing a leg and had nothing to do with chopping and getting a wrist and getting a tilt. He came back better in those fields. 

“Maybe it was a year of frustration and wanting to grab some legs. I know he wrestled Greco at the trials but deep down we’ve been taking shots our whole life. Maybe he missed it and was making up for lost time.”

184: Edmond Ruth or Dylan Connell

Ruth moved up from 174 where he was a Big Ten champion and seventh finisher at nationals. Connell expects to take the spot from Ruth. 

Poeta on Ruth and Connell: “Edmond can be as good as he wants to be. There’s a little barrier he has right now of letting himself go and really opening up in a match. That’s one of the things we worked on in the last couple of years — just more attempts. 

“His wrestling is where we want it, it’s completely fine, but it’s stupid how good he is. If he gets his hands locked around your waist you have no chance of not being put on the mat. He needs to be more aggressive in getting to those places. For him, it’s firing a few more shots, doing a little bit more, and he’s an extremely tough out. 

“We have to throw in Dylan Connell. If you’re there at any weight on our team, you’re the front-runner. I’ve been extremely impressed with Dylan Connell this summer. He’s not backing down. He’s taking this spot.”

197: Zac Braunagel

Braunagel took an Olympic redshirt and finished third in the 87 kg Greco-Roman Olympic Trials mini-tournament. He is a four-time national qualifier and two-time Round of 12 finisher. 

Poeta on Zac Braunagel: “He had a change of pace for a year and he came back excited about folkstyle. I think it was a case of being away from it.”

285: Luke Luffman

Luffman is a two-time national qualifier who whose 2024 season ended due to an injury. He posted an 8-3 record. 

Poeta on Luffman: “He had one-point losses to (Isaac) Trumble and (Zach) Elam. He got hurt the first semester. He’s going to file for a medical year. We’re going to try to get him another year so he’ll have two more. He’s right there. Trumble was in the Olympic Trials finals and he and Luffman had a back-and-forth battle at Midlands. Luffman really stepped it up and got hurt and didn’t see the back half.”

Facilities On Hold

Building the Illinois Wrestling Training Center has been postponed after a $15 million fundraising campaign. Illini athletic director Josh Whitman cited the uncertainty of college athletics as the main culprit. 

“It’s frustrating but who cares,” Poeta said. “You’re disappointed for a second and then you move on. You can do it anywhere. What we have here in Champaign is more than enough. We can get it done with what we have. Someone would be lying if they said they’d prefer not to be in a new facility. 

“We fundraised a lot of money and I think we understand the landscape of college right now. There’s a huge influx and I don’t think any coach or athletic director knows where this thing is going to end up in the next three to 18 months. There is an understanding that a project of this magnitude can just be postponed. I’m confident that we’ll have a shovel in the ground in the fall.”