Illinois was a top 25 team in the NCAA last year, and they're in the same spot again. But this time around they have a few "sleepers" who could perform well this season.

Check out the 2023 Illinois lineup preview. . .

Who's Returning & Leaving?

All National qualifiers are back in the lineup. However, 2021 NCAA placer Dylan Duncan (141) has since graduated after going 0-2 at Big Tens.

Depending on medical redshirts, I also believe Mikey Carr is unfortunately done. Starters Christian Kanzler (149) and DJ Shannon (174) are also gone.

Here are the National qualifiers who are back:

  • Justin Cardani (125)
  • Lucas Byrd (133)
  • Zac Braunagel (184)
  • Luke Luffman (285)

Rumored Weight Changes

There are two rumored weight changes:

  • Zac Brauangel (184 to 197)
  • Matt Wroblewski (197 to 285).

Braunagel made the round of 12 last season, and he's ranked right on the outside again. I think 184 is better for him, but maybe he's been bulking up over the summer.

And if Wroblewski bumps up, I'd assume Luffman redshirts.

New Starters

The first major addition to the lineup is Edmond Ruth at 174 lbs. Yes, he is the brother to Penn State NCAA Champion Ed Ruth. He won the Illinois Matmen Open last season and is a real "sleeper" at the weight.

Either Danny Pucino or Jake Harrier, both sophomores had winning seasons in 2022, will fill in at 141. It's a similar situation with Davenport and Federico at 149.

The last question is 197 lbs, which could go to anybody; so, I'm going with the upperclassman Ramin Abraham.

2023 Lineup Preview

Here's how I expect the team to look in 2023:

  • 125. Justin Cardani (NQ)
  • 133. Lucas Byrd (5th)
  • 141. Pucino / Harrier
  • 149. Davenport / Federico
  • 157. Joe Roberts
  • 165. Danny Braunagel
  • 174. Edmond Ruth
  • 184. Zac Braunagel (R12)
  • 197. Ramin Abraham
  • 285. Luke Luffman (NQ)

What to Expect

The Fighting Illini have a resilient lineup that can improve from a 3-7 record last season.

I also think Byrd, who is a top threat at 133, can make the stand again and will serve as a key part of the lineup. With a tough training partner in Ruth, I think Zac Braunagel finally makes the podium too.

Overall, Illinois can finish top 25 in the country with around 20-25 points.

Josiah Hritsko

Wrestling Fan & Founder of Fanco Wrestling

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