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Martinez and fellow Illini finish strong at NCAA tournament

Illinois%E2%80%99+Isaiah+Martinez+wrestles+with+Maryland%E2%80%99s+Brendan+Burnham+in+the+165-pound+weight+class+during+the+meet+at+Huff+Hall+on+Jan.+28.+The+Illini+won+25-18.
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Martinez and fellow Illini finish strong at NCAA tournament

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland’s Brendan Burnham in the 165-pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 28. The Illini won 25-18.

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland’s Brendan Burnham in the 165-pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 28. The Illini won 25-18.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland’s Brendan Burnham in the 165-pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 28. The Illini won 25-18.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland’s Brendan Burnham in the 165-pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 28. The Illini won 25-18.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

Isaiah Martinez finished his collegiate career as runner-up at the NCAA Championships, being defeated in the 165-pound title bout by Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph. Martinez finishes his career with two national championships, four Big Ten championships and the highest percentage of career wins (.975) in school history.

“It happened,” Martinez said. “You never feel good about situations like that, but it happened and the most important thing to do is move forward.”

The Illini tied for 13th place at the national meet, with both Martinez and junior Emery Parker earning All-American honors.

Martinez and freshman Mike Carr were the only Illinois wrestlers to advance out of the opening round. In just four minutes and 21 seconds, Martinez notched his ninth tech fall of the season against Eastern Michigan’s Zachary Carson.

In Martinez’s second round, he defeated Cornell’s Jonathon Chavez, with three takedowns in the opening three minutes, winning 10-5 by decision.

In the quarterfinals, Martinez became the first four-time All-American in Illinois history after a 10-1 victory against Lock Haven’s Chance Marsteller. Martinez then advanced to the finals with a 5-2 victory over Iowa State’s Alex Marinelli.

In the finals, Martinez wrestled against Joseph, who scored first on a takedown with 13 seconds left in the first period. In the second, Martinez gave up another two points as Joseph countered his offense, pushing the deficit to 4-0. Martinez scored on an escape in the second, but another point was awarded to Joseph after unnecessary roughness. Martinez dropped the match as Joseph scored on another escape, losing by a 6-1 decision.

“Isaiah has done a lot of firsts for this program,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “He’s the first four-time All-American, first four-time finalist, first four-time Big Ten champ and he’s brought a lot of interest and notoriety to our program. Above all else, he’s a genuinely good person, and all that matters.”

Carr won his NCAA Championship debut at 141 pounds, scoring on three takedowns and two back points in his match against South Dakota State’s Henry Pohlmeyer. Oklahoma State senior Dein Heil, the two-time defending national champion at 141 pounds, defeated Carr 6-2 in a second-round bout.

Carr went to the consolation bracket  and after trailing 3-0 in his matchup against Virginia Tech’s Brent Moore, he responded to win 8-5 by decision. He followed that performance with another win over Nicholas Gil of Navy, before losing 8-6 in the next round to Eastern Michigan’s Sa’Derian Perry.

The three other Illini, freshman Dylan Duncan, sophomore Travis Piotrowski and Parker, each lost their opening matches. Although Parker was up 2-1 against North Carolina’s Chip Ness, a takedown that would’ve pushed the lead to 4-1 was waved off. Parker later lost the match after Ness scored on a takedown late in the third.

Duncan lost to Oklahoma State’s Kaid Brock at 133 pounds 7-4 by decision. Meanwhile, Piotrowksi dropped his match at 125 pounds to Oklahoma State’s Nicholas Piccininni.

However, after losing in the first round both Parker and Piotrowski had success in the consolation bracket. Piotrowski defeated American University’s Gage Curry in a 9-1 decision. He then beat North Carolina State’s Sean Fausz, but a loss to West Virginia’s Zeke Moisey ended Piotrowski’s season.

Parker dominated his first match of the consolation bracket against Wyoming’s Chaz Polson, then went on a role, defeating Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster 13-10 , then Central Michigan’s Jordan Ellingwood, 17-6.

Parker wrestled for third place against Nebraska’s Taylor Venz. In the first period, Parker got off to a hot start and controlled the rest of the match to finish in third place with an 8-1 victory.

“Isaiah getting back to the finals was big for us, and Emery getting third was big for us, especially the way he did it,” Heffernan said. “I also think Mike Carr had a pretty good tournament, just made a couple key mistakes in the match to place.”

@jaredefarmer

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