“Lethargic” Illini wrestling falls to No. 1 Iowa

By Jay Lee

In a battle of unbeatens, No. 1 Iowa handed the visiting No. 7 Illini their first loss of the season Sunday night in convincing fashion, 32-4.

“They’re the No. 1 team for a reason,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “Tonight we had no answers for them.”

A crowd of 6,946 came out to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to watch the top-ranked Hawkeyes give up only nine takedowns on the night to extend their dual-meet winning streak to 31.

The Illini’s hopes of an upset of the top-ranked Hawkeyes began to slip away when Jimmy Kennedy lost to Iowa’s Daniel Dennis, 5-0.

Dennis, a former high school teammate of Kennedy’s, notched an escape and a takedown in the early seconds of the second period to break a 0-0 tie and proceeded to ride out Kennedy for the remainder of the match. The Hawkeye had previously defeated Kennedy at the Midlands Championships in December and is responsible for Kennedy’s only two losses this season.

“We had expected Kennedy to win, and we knew we would have to win those matches if we had a shot at beating them,” Johnson said.

Iowa (17-0, 2-0 Big Ten) went on to win nine of the 10 matches, with Mike Poeta’s 15-5 major decision saving the Illini (7-1, 0-1) from a clean sweep.

“It’s a bad atmosphere in there, no one can really swallow what went down tonight,” Poeta said of the postgame locker room. “Everyone is really down right now, but we have a long season ahead of us. We have to have a short memory.”

The Hawkeyes clinched the win after the seventh match of the night, when Iowa’s Jay Borschel scored a major decision over Illinois’ John Dergo to make the score 23-4.

Illinois capped off the meet with Patrick Bond and John Wise both suffering last-second defeats to their Iowa counterparts.

Using words such as “lethargic” and “intimidated” to describe his team’s performance, Johnson attributed much of his team’s struggles to its poor start.

“Their heads weren’t in it to begin with, and if you’re not at your best against a team like Iowa, you can just forget about it,” Johnson said.

Sunday’s loss marked the second straight time the Illini have dropped their Big Ten opener. Last year, the Illini lost 22-16 to Michigan.

“Top to bottom, we just got beat,” Poeta said. “Once we click we’ll be OK, but that didn’t happen tonight.”