`Birds Look to Repeat as Missouri Valley Conference Champs
Senior Kris Wildenradt
Senior Kris Wildenradt

April 20, 2006

NORMAL, Ill. - After shocking the Missouri Valley Conference at the 2005 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship by capturing the title, defending conference medalist Kris Wildenradt and the Illinois State men's golf team look to repeat as champions at the 2006 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship, held April 24th-25th, at the Prairie Dunes Golf Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Redbirds head into the Valley championship coming off an impressive spring season, including a victory at the 7th Annual Kauai Collegiate Cup on March 17th-18th. After being picked to win by the Valley coaches in the pre-championship poll, head coach Ray Kralis is confident about the Redbirds' chances to defend their title.

"We are definitely looking forward to the tournament," said Kralis. "We feel like we are in a position to win. If we are able to get the team effort that we are capable of, we will be in control of our own destiny."

The Redbirds' experience should help them defend their title as the team will be sending five upperclassmen to Kansas including junior Matt Miller, who leads the Valley in stroke average. Wildenradt is in the top five in stroke average and looks to defend his medalist honors. Senior Matt Maskel, a member of the 2005 All-Missouri Valley Conference team, is another threat to compete for the individual title. Senior Chris Eddy also brings Valley championship experience as he finished tied for 10th at the 2003 State Farm Missouri Valley Championship. Senior Jason Kemp rounds out the lineup for the `Birds, and has proven to be tournament-tested.

Kralis feels that any of the team's "big-three" (Miller, Maskel and Wildenradt) are favorites to capture medalist honors.

"I certainly think that any of the `big-three' are capable of winning the tournament," said Kralis. "Miller is certainly a favorite to win and has been playing great all season. Wildenradt is the defending medalist, and has the ability to repeat as champion. Maskel has the ability to score low and separate himself from the rest of the field."

The tournament will be held at the Prairie Dunes Golf Club, which is nationally ranked and the site of the 2006 United States Senior Open. The course is ranked No. 13 in the United States and No. 21 in the world by Golf Magazine, while Golf Digest ranks Prairie Dunes No. 25 on its list of America's greatest golf courses. Kralis was full of praise when describing the team's opportunity to compete at the golf course.

"We are looking forward to playing on this course," said Kralis. "It is rated extremely high, and it is one of the best in the country. It is just an awesome golf course."

The tournament tees off with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. on Monday, with teams playing 36 holes. The tournament concludes on Tuesday with another shotgun start at 8 a.m. and teams will complete the last 18 holes.