Huskers dominate Illini wrestling in Lincoln

By Alex Wallner

Tweet: .@IlliniWrestling lose to Huskers 30-10 in Lincoln

The Illinois wrestling team found itself losers of the last three duals to Nebraska coming into Friday’s contest in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The result was once again not be in the Illini’s favor at the conclusion of Friday’s dual — they lost to the Huskers, 30-10.

Illinois took a 10-9 lead with five matches remaining and would lose all five after stringing together three straight match wins.

Without No. 2 ranked Zane Richards at 133 pounds, the Illini had no choice but to forfeit the match at that class, which turned out to be an automatic six points for Nebraska.

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Second ranked Isaiah Martinez improved to 21-1 on the season at 157-pounds with a 12-6 decision victory over No. 19 Tyler Berger.

Martinez’s win proved to not be enough for the Illini in the end. He said that things aren’t good right now but thinks his team will bounce back strong against Northwestern on Sunday at Huff Hall.

The Huskers started off strong with nine early points and finished even stronger with 21 more points to defeat an Illini team that is 2-2 in its last four duals.

Regardless of the record, Illinois’ Zac Brunson said that he still believes the wrestlers can get to the level of performance that they have set forth all season.

“What matters most to us is making sure we’re there at nationals,” Brunson said. “We lost this afternoon, but we honestly believe that we have a team that can make a run come NCAA time for a team title and we honestly believe that we’re a better tournament team than we are a dual meet team and even after tonight, we still feel like we’re a serious threat come NCAA’s.”

At 174 pounds, Brunson is currently ranked fourth in his weight class and with a major decision victory over No. 17 Micah Barnes of the Huskers, improved his record to 16-1 on the season.

Brunson said that he had to battle in his match on Friday, even though he earned a major decision victory.

“I struggled a little early, down a few points and had to work to get back into the match,” Brunson said. “Whenever we step out onto the mat, we kind of have to accept the fact that things may go wrong.”

Down 3-0 early into the second period, Brunson said that he didn’t panic as he knew there was still time on the clock to work.

Brunson quickly got into attack mode after the 3-0 deficit, returning the favor with a takedown and four-point near fall of his own to gain his first lead of the match, 6-3, and never looked back from there.

Opening in the third period, Brunson escaped from Barnes hold and followed up with another takedown and a two-point near fall to win the match and gave Illinois its first lead of the evening, at 10-9.

Brunson’s win was the Illini’s final of the dual as well with Nebraska taking control to end the contest.

With a ranked wrestler at every class, Nebraska brought a lot of depth. Brunson added that the Husker are always one of the toughest dual meet teams that the Illini face.

“They run a great program and they have some great coaches out there,” Brunson said. “But you know, we went into it missing a couple of guys, but we thought we still had a shot. We came up a little short, but we always come prepared because we realize it’s going to be a fight.”

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