Redshirts shine on a Sunday afternoon for Illinois wrestling

By Alex Wallner

Tweet: .@IlliniWrestling earned a lot of production from various redshirts on Sunday’s Illini Duals.

Redshirts reigned supreme on Sunday at the Illini Duals for the No. 11 Illinois wrestling team: Three Illini redshirt wrestlers came away with three pinfall victories in the first period.

Redshirt sophomores Isaiah Martinez and Brooks Black and redshirt junior Zac Brunson all earned pins to help the Illini earn a 41-3 victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and a fifth victory on the season.

Martinez defeated Cougar Nate Higgins with two takedowns and one four-point near-fall to set up the pin, which gave Illinois a 17-3 lead.

Brunson earned his second fall of the afternoon by beating Clayton Bass in a shutout. Brunson had a takedown and two four-point near-falls in the match, which led to a pin and a 28-3 Illini advantage.

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Going into Sunday, Brunson was thinking about one thing only.

“For my matches, personally, I came into this weekend wanting to get pins,” Brunson said. “I wanted to change the way I wrestle this year. Last season, throughout the entire season, I had one pin and I felt like that needed to change. I spent a lot of time this summer working on top, working on getting people to the back and I think it showed off today with two first period falls.”

Seven to 60

Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan is just seven wins away from his 60th win in six years as Illinois’ head coach.

Win No. 60 could come before 2016 arrives, as the Illini have a week off before heading to New York City, Reno, Nevada, and Evanston, Illinois, to end 2015.

Illinois takes on Big Ten foe Maryland and Drexel at the Grapple at the Garden on Nov. 29. The Illini then travel to Reno for its Reno Tournament and follow up with the Midlands Championships to close out the month of December.

The Midlands Championships are hosted by Northwestern and will take place on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.

Heffernan said that his team needs a week off — the Illini won’t have much time off once they get into Big Ten play.

“It’s a great time to train and a great time to get better,” Heffernan said. “More time in the wrestling room to keep improving, so it’s kind of nice to have because once the New Year comes around, there’s no time. The number of training days is really shortened, so we need to use the time wisely.”

Illini top Sun Devils in dominating fashion

Arizona State came into Sunday ranked No. 27 with four top-25 votes, but the Illini dominated the Sun Devils on the mat, winning the match 27-9. 

Senior Steven Rodriguesthat stood out to Heffernan. Rodrigues blew out Jacen Petersen 16-5 in a 165-pound dual and recorded eight takedowns in the match.

Heffernan said that Rodrigues showed a lot of progress and was pleased with his mindset: He said that Rodrigues’ confidence is at a new level this season.

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