Illinois wrestling falls to undefeated Hawkeyes

By Alex Wallner

llinois wrestling fell to the No.2 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-0, 2-0) before 1,451 fans at Huff Hall on Friday by a score of 26-12, marking its second straight loss to a top-10 opponent.

Grapplers Zane Richards, Isaiah Martinez and Steven Rodrigues earned the only victories for the Illini (8-2, 0-2).

Illinois was without the 174-pound, No. 5-ranked Zac Brunson (14-0) for the second straight competition due to injury.

Head coach Jim Heffernan didn’t say what Brunson’s injury was at the team’s practice Thursday. Brunson was active on the mat during that practice. Redshirt freshman Isaac Reinemann has competed in his absence.

No. 7-ranked Zane Richards kept his perfect record spotless Friday. He earned a 5-3 overtime victory over No. 2 Cory Clark, which brought life to the Illini faithful in attendance. The loss was Clark’s (12-4) fourth straight.

“There’s more that I can give in that match. (I should’ve) not just beat him, but dominated him,” Richards said. “He never really got to my legs, he never really scored, it was two takedowns to none, so I feel happier about that. I’m the best guy in the nation and any chance I get, I like to prove it.”

No. 7 Steven Rodrigues earned his win over Patrick Rhoads by major decision, 12-4, to improve to 16-1 just four days after losing his first match of the season to No. 2 Bo Jordan of Ohio State, 6-3.

“I really feel like he didn’t do much,” Rodrigues said. “He only had one leg attack, but just moving and getting to my offense put him down and put him down hard.”

Rodrigues’ victory tied the match at 12. Illinois was down 12-3 before that point.

“We’re just so close in matches when we’re wrestling one of the top-5 teams in the country,” Rodrigues said. “Not having somebody (like Brunson) is tough to come back from, so we just got to rebound.”

Illinois travels to DeKalb on Sunday to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in a nonconference dual, before returning to Big Ten action the following weekend.

“A quick turnaround is the way it’s going to be the next three weeks,” Heffernan said. “It’s one of those deals where we got to – you know tonight after we talk a little bit about tonight – we got to start getting ready for Northern Illinois. It doesn’t matter who we wrestle, we got to worry about what we got to worry about, and that’s getting better and proving and keep trying to build.”

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