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Illinois wrestling falls to Missouri 20-17 in season opener

Illinois%27+Isaiah+Martinez+wrestles+with+Michigan%27s+Logan+Massa+in+the+165+pound+weight+class+during+the+match+at+Huff+Hall+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+20.+Martinez+won+by+decision+and+the+Illini+defeated+the+Wolverines+34-6.
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Illinois wrestling falls to Missouri 20-17 in season opener

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165 pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165 pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165 pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165 pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Friday, Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

By Jared Farmer, Staff writer

The Illinois wrestling team was excited and eager to wrestle for the first action of the season going into its season opener.

The Illini had their work cut out for them, competing with No. 5 Missouri on its home softball field. Although the Illini took the lead early on and had four individual victories in the dual, Missouri proved too much and Illinois lost 20-17.

No. 2-ranked senior Isaiah Martinez and junior Deuce Rachal scored 11 of Illinois’ 17 points on Saturday, both notching big bonus point victories for the Illini. At 165 pounds, Martinez defeated his opponent Connor Flynn in the second period (4:35) after tallying nine takedowns and six near-fall off points. Rachal defeated opponent Austin Myers within 2:13 of the first period.

“I think some of our guys were excited to compete,” Martinez said. “I saw some good things and some bad things. It’s early in the season, most of the guys did their weight right, but unfortunately, we came back with a loss. When you lose, you learn from your mistakes, and I think we have a lot to improve on.”

With the 99th victory of his career, Martinez is now in sole possession of the No. 25 place on the Illinois all-time list for career wins. Former Illini Jesse Delgado currently holds onto No. 24 place on the all-time list with 101 wins.

“I’m not really thinking about the record right now,” Martinez. “I’m just focusing on competing and wrestling as hard as I can, and not letting a moment slip by where I’m not focused on trying to get my best effort out there. When it’s all said and done, we’ll see where the chips lay.”

Travis Piotrowski, ranked No. 17 for his weight class, put the Illini on the board first with a 3-1 victory in overtime against Missouri’s Barlow McGhee. Twenty-three seconds into overtime, Piotrowski managed to reverse McGhee’s momentum and get him on his back for two points and the victory.

Emery Parker, the No. 8-ranked wrestler in the 184 lb. class, added in a second Illinois decision in a 6-2 victory against Missouri’s Canten Marriott. Marriott kept the first six minutes of the match a defensive struggle, in which Parker managed to score two points to give the Illini a 2-0 lead. However, in the final period, Parker managed to takedown Marriott twice in the final period to secure another victory.

The Illini lead was short-lived, however, as Missouri went on a 13-0 run following Pietrowski’s opening victory to take a 13-3 lead. Despite going on a four-match drought, freshman Dylan Duncan and Mike Carr performed well against top ten opponents in their Illini debuts.

Duncan fell behind against No. 9-ranked John Erneste 5-1 in the second period, but closed the gap to within one point after recording his first career takedown. Within the final minutes of the match, Duncan nearly pulled off the upset after almost converting on a takedown that would’ve won him the match, but he was unable to grab hold of Erneste’s legs to pull off the upset.

Carr went toe-to-toe with No. 4 Jaydin Eierman in a high energy bout, dropping his dual 20-11. Carr fell behind early on for a 7-0 deficit, but came back with two takedowns to cut the lead to three and make the score 8-5. After an Eierman pin was overturned in the second period, Carr had another takedown and two back points before falling by major decision, 20-11.

“I liked the effort out of our freshmen,” head coach Jim Heffernan said. “I think decision-making can definitely be fixed, and strategy can be cleaned up as well, but I liked their effort. Those guys will get better fast.”

Junior Andre Lee was third to drop a close match to a top ten wrestler, only surrendering one takedown in the first seven minutes of his match against No. 3-ranked Willie Miklus. Lee was unable to overcome a second period takedown by Miklus, and dropped the match by a score of 3-1 despite nearly scoring on a late shot attempt within the closing seconds of the match.

“The fact of the matter is that we did lose,” Heffernan said. “That’s not okay with any of us, and the fact that it was close definitely wasn’t okay with us either. We have to be beating teams, so we can’t ever be content with losing to a good team.”

@jaredefarmer

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