Head coach Heffernan calls defeat ‘single worst performance’

It was almost a week later for the Illini, but the story must have felt very similar.

No. 21 Illinois (8-8, 3-5 Big Ten) ended its regular season with a 25-11 defeat at the hands of No. 23 Purdue (11-10, 2-6). The loss came just six days after the Illini were downed 38-3 by the Ohio State Buckeyes. And afterward, head coach Jim Heffernan was holding nothing back about his team.

“In my 18 years on this campus coaching wrestling, that’s the single worst, that’s the single worst performance I’ve ever seen,” Heffernan said. “There’s no other way to explain it … There wasn’t any effort as far as I’m concerned.

“(Purdue is) a mediocre team, and we made them look like superstars.”

The Boilermakers jumped out to a quick lead as No. 6 Luke Manuel dropped No. 13 Jordan Blanton by a score of 5-3 at 174 pounds. The advantage didn’t last long though, as No. 2 John Dergo quickly gave Illinois a lead of its own with a 14-4 major decision at 184 pounds.

However, Purdue came back with a vengeance, winning the next four matches and earning four bonus points in the process for a 19-4 advantage with just four matches remaining.

At 141 pounds, No. 14 Ryan Prater tried to spark an Illini comeback with a 13-0 major decision over Bill Putman.

Those efforts were shut down quickly with a 6-4 decision by Purdue’s Nick Bertucci over No. 19 Eric Terrazas at 149 pounds. The two fought hard, wrestling to a 4-4 tie after regulation and a pair of overtimes. But in the end, Bertucci earned the two-point takedown to seal the victory for the Boilermakers.

Before the match, Illinois honored its four seniors — Clint Arlis, Patrick Bond, Dergo and Jake Norman — in front of a Huff Hall crowd of more than 2,400 fans. Dergo was the only senior to earn a victory on the night.

Bond, who is currently ranked No. 9, was held out of action due to a knee injury he suffered last week. But Heffernan wasn’t using that as an excuse for the outcome.

“We have to wrestle with who’s on our team,” Heffernan said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the lineup. We’ve had injuries all year. We’ve had illnesses all year. We’ve had a lot of problems. But you know what, you wrestle with what you’ve got.”