Late pins lead to weekend split for wrestlers

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Jay Lee

Two pins in the final three bouts cost the No. 8 Illinois wrestling team on Sunday, as No. 6 Ohio State won 26-13.

After taking eight of 10 matches to defeat No. 20 Indiana, 25-6, on Friday night, the Illini (11-2, 4-2 in Big Ten) dropped six of 10 matches to Ohio State (14-2, 5-1).

“It’s just one of those things where you compete well and you just don’t get it done,” Illinois head coach Mark Johnson said.

After Illinois fell behind 14-3 early, No. 9 John Wise’s major decision over Ohio State’s Corey Morrison brought the score to 14-10. But both B.J. Futrell and Ryan Prater got caught under their Buckeye opponents, securing the win for Ohio State.

“We were ahead in both those matches and I thought we had a real good chance at winning both,” Johnson said. “We win those two matches and we win (the meet), but those small little mistakes that get you into that position are going to cost you.”

Futrell looked to be more than Ohio State’s Nikko Triggas could handle, notching a takedown 15 seconds into the match. But when Triggas started on top in the second period, the Buckeye sophomore hooked Futrell’s arm and turned him, erasing Futrell’s 4-2 lead with a pin.

“It’s a shame because I loved the way he went out and really attacked him from the start,” Johnson said. “He was ahead all the way to the pin and we were all expecting him to get that one.”

Johnson’s tone following the meet was a stark contrast from the team’s last loss, a 32-4 defeat to No. 1 Iowa in which Johnson questioned the team’s will and desire.

“I told them after, the challenges on the season will have to do with effort,” Johnson said. “Of course I hate losing, but when you put forth that type of effort and wrestle well, that’s really all that’s important.”

Senior Mike Poeta, who joined Johnson in his vocal criticism of the team’s efforts following the Iowa loss, echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“It was a weird situation where we got pinned twice where we could have won, and you can just put that as a fluke. Things like this happen every once in a while,” Poeta said. “It’s not all about wins and losses. We challenged ourselves, we scored a ton of points, and we took a step forward.”

Plenty of positives came from the meet, as No. 3 Jimmy Kennedy followed up his 15-5 major decision against Indiana’s Matt Ortega by defeating Ohio State’s No. 2 Reece Humphrey with a 4-3 decision.

“It’s one of the things where it’s more impressive from an outside standpoint,” Kennedy said. “I never really viewed it as No. 2 going up against No. 3, but I know that there was a lot of pressure riding on it from the outside.”

Humphrey took an early 3-1 lead, which carried for most of the match, but Kennedy was able to notch a reversal 11 seconds into the final period to even the score at 3-3. Kennedy fought back a late attempt at a reversal, riding out his Buckeye opponent to lock up the riding time point and the 4-3 win.

“It was a hard-fought match and (Kennedy) did a great job of battling,” Johnson said. “It was a great effort by a great wrestler.”

Johnson also pointed to the efforts of No. 12 Jordan Blanton, who lost 10-2 to Ohio State’s No. 2 Mike Pucillo, the defending national champion at 184 pounds. Blanton spent most of the time warding off Pucillo’s takedown attempts, scoring both his points on escapes.

“(Ohio State head coach) Tom Ryan came up to me after and said, ‘That freshman is going to be real good,'” Johnson said. “The fact that he wrestled a national champion that tough says a lot about the kid.”

Patrick Bond was also a bright spot on the weekend, winning both his matches to bring his record to 12-11. The former NCAA qualifier had been slowed early on by an offseason shoulder surgery, but the junior beat Ohio State’s Jason Cook, 8-2, after narrowly defeating Indiana’s Matt Powless, 7-6, on Friday.

“It was good to see him wrestle like that again,” Johnson said. “It was a step forward for him.”

Friday night’s win over the Hoosiers (15-5-1, 2-3-1) marked the 12th consecutive time the Illini have defeated their border rivals to the east, including eight straight at Huff Hall.

“We’ve been wrestling tough and maintaining a high level of intensity,” Poeta said. “Nationals are only five weeks away, so from this point forward we have to keep getting better every time out so we can put forth the best product at the end.”