Illini wrestling falls short at home against Buckeyes in Big Ten opener

By Alex Wallner

The No. 11-ranked Illinois wrestling team (14-1, 0-1) fell short to defending NCAA champion Ohio State (5-1, 2-0) on Sunday afternoon at Huff Hall.

The No. 6 Buckeyes took an early 8-0 lead, as Thomas Haines defeated No. 17 Brooks Black, 3-2, in a heavyweight bout and No. 1 Nathan Tomasello followed up with a 17-3 victory over Illinois’ Francis Edelen in a 125-pound contest.

Illinois would earn its first points in a top-10, 133-pound match featuring eighth-ranked Johnni DiJulius of the Buckeyes and ninth-ranked Zane Richards.

Richards won the match 8-3 and made the team score 8-3 in favor of the Buckeyes.

After Ohio State’s Micah Jordan defeated Illinois’ Brock Ervin to push the Buckeye lead to 11-3, Illinois responded with back-to-back victories of its own.

In a 149-pound bout, Illinois’ Kyle Langenderfer defeated Ohio State’s Matt Davis in dominating fashion, winning by technical fall.

“It felt good to get a good win under my belt,” Langenderfer said. “I felt good, body wise, and going out there and putting it on for the fans was nice along with showing our coaching staff that I am there to mix it up and different things like that.”

Langenderfer added that the win riled up the team and made the team score, 11-8, in favor of Ohio State with top-ranked Isaiah Martinez coming to the mat in a 157-pound dual against No. 13 Jake Ryan of Ohio State.

Martinez won and added another technical fall to his resume, his 10th of the season, which gave the Illini a two-point lead over Ohio State – their first lead of the afternoon.

Martinez said that as a defending national champion, his opponents have strategized against him differently this season, but he feels as if he is pushing them out of their shells.

“Last year, they were more open and really trying to score and expose themselves, now they know they’re going up against a returning national champion,” Martinez said. “Their goal now is to not to try and win the match, but just try to keep it close and that does a lot. It changes the way guys wrestle against me.”

Up 13-11 with four matches to go, Illinois sent another undefeated wrestler to the mat in a 165-pound dual.

Eighth-ranked Steven Rodrigues faced off against second-ranked Bo Jordan of Ohio State in a closely fought contest.

In the end, Jordan came out victorious, defeating Rodrigues 6-3 and giving Ohio State its second lead of the day, 14-13.

Ohio State’s Myles Martin then defeated the Illini’s Isaac Reinemann by technical fall, cushioning the Buckeye lead to 19-13.

The Illini responded again, though, and made the team score, 19-17, after Jeff Koepke defeated Jack Rozema, 15-6. The win was Koepke’s 12th on the season and would set up the decisive, final match of the afternoon.

At 197-pounds, Illinois’ Andre Lee was set to face off against Mark Martin of Ohio State.

The match, though, was stopped in the first period when Martin hit his head on the mat hard and prompted the Ohio State trainer to run a concussion test. He returned after five minutes to continue the contest.

In yet another close match, Martin came out victorious, edging Lee by a single point to give Ohio State a 22-17 victory over the Illini.

Illinois was involved in four close matches on the afternoon, which Koepke believed could have gone either way.

“I think if we would have either of those at heavyweight, 141-pound or 197-pounds at the end, that would have swung the dual our way,” Koepke said.

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