Illini win streak up to four after weekend victories


Ryan Fang

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez grapples against Minnesota’s Brandon Kingsley in Huff Hall on Feb. 12 2016.

By Brian Binz, Staff writer

The Illinois wrestling team continued its winning streak, defeating Michigan State 30-9 on Friday at Huff Hall and then Arizona State 26-9 on Sunday in Tempe, Arizona.

On Friday, the Illini never trailed in the dual, and won eight of the nine contested matches, most by five points or more.

It wasn’t until the Illini forfeited the 133-pound match that Michigan State put points on the scoreboard. Eric Barone, Kyle Langenderfer, Isaiah Martinez, Zac Brunson, Emery Parker, Andre Lee, Brooks Black and Travis Piotrowski all picked up consecutive wins over Spartan wrestlers, giving the Illini a 30-0 lead.

Martinez, Langenderfer, and Black continued their personal streaks, with Black and Martinez staying undefeated in Big Ten play.

Black, who returned from a knee injury against Michigan, has dominated in his past three matches, and was impressive Friday, jumping out to a 13-0 lead, and never giving the smaller Michigan State Heavyweight a chance.

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“My body feels good, I’ve been more aggressive in all my matches than I usually am right off the whistle,” Black said. “I’ve been working with the coaches a lot about scoring more in the first period.”

Black spent most of the match on top of the noticeably smaller Michigan State Heavyweight, racking up more than four minutes of riding time.

While most matches went like Black’s, the Illini got last round and sudden-victory wins from Barone and Piotrowski. Andre Lee also picked up his first Big Ten win of the season with a 4-0 victory.

The most drama of the night came in Martinez’ match. It started out like so many of his matches, with Martinez jumping out to a 20-7 lead with a flurry of pins, four point near-falls and reversals.

However, after that early barrage, things got weird.

That 13-point lead got Martinez within two points of the 15-point lead that results in a tech fall, ending the match. The pace of the match significantly slowed in the second round, however, as the Michigan State wrestler spent most of the round on top of Martinez, without much action.

The referees began to penalize the Spartan for stalling, but the Spartan coaches vocally disagreed, lobbying for stalling calls on Martinez. Martinez seemed to be frustrated, motioning to the referee that the Michigan State wrestler was trying to avoid the tech fall.

“He wasn’t really working toward anything, he was just trying to hold on and avoid the tech fall,” Martinez said. “Not very honorable.”

Eventually the Spartan received a third stalling warning, resulting in the tech fall victory for Martinez. Martinez got his fifth tech fall win in six matches and his eighth of the year.

While head coach Jim Heffernan was happy with the continued success, he said he still doesn’t feel as though his team has reached its peak — despite their win streak.

“I thought we wrestled okay, nothing great,” Heffernan said.

Illinois then defeated No. 19 Arizona State on Sunday marking its fourth straight win, all of them by double digits. Piotrowski, Zane Richards, Barone, Langenderfer, Martinez, Parker and Lee all picked up wins to boost the Illini.

Illinois will look to continue the streak Friday against Northwestern.

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