Martinez, Richards, Rodrigues shine as No. 12 Illini wrestling sweeps Sunday afternoon.

By Alex Wallner

By Alex Wallner

The No. 12-ranked Illinois wrestling team dominated a pair of matches at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and defeated Princeton at the New York Athletic Club to wrap up a successful East Coast trip.SO

The Illini defeated Big Ten foe Maryland, 34-9, to improve to 6-0 on the season.SO Illinois got eight wins in the match, including one from freshman Francis Edelen – the first win of his Illinois career.SO

No. 1-ranked, 157-pound Isaiah Martinez earned a technical fall victory over No. 18 Louis Mascola of Maryland. The win was one of three for Martinez on Sunday.SO

133-pound Zane Richards earned three wins for the Illini. The No. 6-ranked wrestler defeated Tyler Goodwin of Maryland by fall, David Pearce of Drexel by a 15-6 majority decision and Princeton’s Trey Aslanian by technical fall, 25-10.SO

In the second match of the day at Madison Square Garden, the Illini defeated the Drexel Dragons, 31-9 to improve to 7-0 on the season.SO

In a 184-pound dual, No. 17 Jeff Koepke of Illinois bounced back from a loss to Jaron Smith of Maryland by defeating Drexel’s Stephen Loiseau. The win was Koepke’s fifth on the seasonSO.

The final match of the day took place at the New York Athletic Club, where the Illini defeated Princeton in its closest match of the season, 20-15SO. The win was the Illini’s eighth against a very solid Princeton lineup.

“You know, they’re tough,” Martinez said regarding Princeton. “When you think of the EIWA and the Ivy League, they’re not the best at wrestling outside of Cornell, but these guys were fighting. Many of them were Jersey wrestlers and if you know anything about wrestling, you would know that New Jersey is a pretty good high school wrestling state and many of them go from Jersey to Princeton.”

Even though the Illini didn’t wrestle Princeton at Madison Square Garden, Martinez was still excited to be able to step foot into a building that has hosted many memorable and iconic events.

Martinez said that wrestling at Madison Square Garden was so much different than wrestling in St. Louis or Philadelphia. He said that the experience was awesome and loved that so many people were there.

“When I walked into the arena, I was like ‘man, this is awesome,’” Martinez said. “It’s just neat being in a venue like that and knowing where nationals is going to be at this year.”

Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan said that going to Madison Square Garden and knowing that the national tournament was being held there this season was the main reason for scheduling it.

Heffernan added that his team had been out to New York City a couple of seasons prior and said that he wanted to get his team out there to get rid of the shock factor.

“It’s a different kind of place and it is maybe the most historically traditional arena in the entire world,” Heffernan said. “So it was pretty cool to get there and get it out of our system and become a little bit familiar with the whole thing.”

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