Wrestlers overcome Hoosiers loss with Northwestern victory

The Illini wrestling team is probably feeling a sense of deja vu right about now.

No. 20 Illinois lost 22-13 at No. 14 Indiana on Friday but followed it up Sunday with a 30-6 win over Northwestern. The results were almost exactly the same as last weekend, when the Illini fell at No. 13 Penn State 24-11 but beat Michigan State 23-12.

The Illini (7-5, 2-2 Big Ten) went to Bloomington, Ind., on Friday, looking to earn their first victory over a ranked opponent this season but found themselves trailing 8-0 after just two matches. The team came within just two points of the Hoosiers twice, but both times the comeback was denied by back-to-back Hoosier victories.

No. 1 Angel Escobedo earned a technical fall at 125 pounds over John Deneen in the first match of the night, as IU took a quick lead. The big deficit didn’t last long, as junior Ryan Prater and sophomore Eric Terrazas earned victories at 141 and 149 pounds to cut the lead to 8-6.

After two Indiana victories, including a major decision at 165 pounds, the Hoosiers held a nine-point advantage, but sophomore Jordan Blanton stopped the rally with a win at 174 pounds. Senior John Dergo then brought the Illini back to within striking distance, earning a major decision at 184 pounds that made the score 15-13 with just two matches left. But senior Patrick Bond was upset by the Hoosiers’ Matt Powless at 197 pounds, and No. 2 Nate Everhart closed the match by defeating redshirt freshman Pat Walker at heavyweight.

“It was really a gut-checking time for our team as a whole,” Terrazas said of the loss.

Northwestern proved to be a much easier task for Illinois, as the Illini took an early 6-0 lead and never looked back, losing just two matches en route to the easy victory.

Bond bounced back from Friday’s upset and started the Illini off on the right foot with a 7-3 decision, and halfway through the dual the Orange and Blue held a commanding 15-3 lead. Terrazas dropped the next match to No. 14 Andrew Nadhir, but it would prove to be the final point for the Wildcats. Illinois won the next four matches to seal the victory, including a Dergo pin of Aaron Jones just 1:15 into the first period to end the dual.

“Mentally, I think there were a few changes made,” Dergo said. “We wrestled well. We made those changes that we needed to make, and the score showed it.”

Despite a .500 conference record, head coach Jim Heffernan thinks the team is improving.

“It’s getting closer,” Heffernan said. “I think everybody is headed in the right direction.”

No. 5 Minnesota and No. 12 Wisconsin will visit Huff Hall next weekend for the first of four home Big Ten duals for Illinois.