Illini wrestling’s Brooks Black pins Jennings for an Illinois win

By Alex Wallner

Tweet: “He told me that if it came down to me, I wasn’t going to lose and I kind of had that sitting in the back of my head before I went out there and wrestled.” — Brooks Black

With the dual coming down to the final match, Illinois’ Brooks Black faced Northwestern’s Conan Jennings with the Wildcats leading the Illini 24-19.

After taking down Jennings early on in the match, Black found an opening and took advantage, flipping Jennings over and getting not only the pin, but the win for an Illinois team that was without one of its top wrestlers.

“It’s kind of like (SIU), it wasn’t a real big match, but I got the pin,” Black said. “Every time you get a pin, you get really excited, especially to win the match for the team and you almost lose your emotions a little just because you know what you did for the team.”

What Black remembers most, though, is what Illini head coach Jim Heffernan said to him when he was a freshman.

“Coach Heff said it might come down to me and I said ‘remember what you told me freshman year?’” Black said. “He told me that if it came down to me, I wasn’t going to lose and I kind of had that sitting in the back of my head before I went out there and wrestled.”

Black was coming off of his worst defeat of the season just two days prior, as he was pinned in 34 seconds by Collin Jensen of Nebraska.

Without No. 2 Zane Richards at 133 pounds due to sickness — Heffernan said that it was going to be tough without him — the Illini suffered the second straight forfeit at the weight class.

“We tried to get him to rebound a little bit between last night after we got home and this morning, but he just didn’t have anything in him,” Heffernan said. “We had no choice other than to forfeit, so we were in a giant hole to begin with.”

At 197 pounds, Illinois’ Andre Lee escaped Northwestern’s Jacob Berkowitz to regain a 7-6 lead before stumbling and eventually finding himself pinned to the mat and Northwestern regaining the lead at 24-19.

“Andre is ahead with 16 seconds left, kind of trips over his own feet a little bit, gets caught on his back and pinned and we had no other choice then to have Brooks find a way to pin the guy and he did,” Heffernan said. “It was a really, really ugly match, but I’m glad that we found a way to pull it out.”

Along with Black, the Illini earned one other pin on the day, at 157-pounds.

No. 2 Isaiah Martinez pinned Anthony Petrone in 55 seconds to earn his 22nd win of the season and third straight since dropping his first collegiate match to No. 1 Jason Nolf of Penn State.

At 165 pounds, No. 4 Steven Rodrigues earned a major decision victory over Luke Norland 12-3 to improve to 20-2 on the season.

Despite the major decision victory, Rodrigues said that he could have wrestled much better than he did.

“I didn’t think I wrestled very well,” Rodrigues said. “I let him get to my legs a few times. I just wasn’t ready to go, like I should have been. I just kind of wrestled down to the competition.”

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