Illini prepare for second dual meet


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Travis Piotrowski wrestles with Maryland’s Brandon Cray in the 125-pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 28. The Illini won 25-18.

By Brendyn Jones, Staff Writer

The Illini are fresh off a trip to Las Vegas where three wrestlers placed in the top 10. Taking down two ranked opponents, 157-pound redshirt-junior Eric Barone placed seventh in his weight class. Mike Carr, a 141-pound redshirt-sophomore,  and Travis Piotrowski, a 125-pound junior, both placed sixth.

Illinois hasn’t competed in a dual meet since it dropped its opening meet against Missouri at Grange Grove. The team has competed in three tournaments since its opening meet, but the wrestlers feel like they’ve learned a lot about themselves from their past experience.

“When you start wrestling other guys from other programs, your weaknesses stick out a lot more than wrestling the same guys every day in practice,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “So I think more than anything, we’ve been able to pinpoint things guys have been doing and we’re not doing as a team and hopefully start fixing those things.”

The Northern Illinois University wrestling team is 2-3 after losing to Indiana University in its last dual meet. Illinois is 19-9 all-time against NIU,and the last time Illinois had a dual meet against Northern Illinois was in the 2016-17 season. The Illini beat the Huskies 25-12, and current Illini wrestlers Mousa Jodeh and Emery Parker both received wins in the meet.

Andre Lee, Barone and Piotrowski lost their matchups the last time the Illini wrestled against NIU. Piotrowski, fresh off a sixth-place finish, is ready to compete against NIU and get a win this weekend.

“I don’t know what it is this year, but it’s just a completely different mentality with every single match I have this year,” Piotrowski said. “I don’t care if it’s the number one-ranked guy or if it’s an unranked guy. I look forward to every match, and I look forward to really perfecting my technique.”

Heffernan plans to send most of the same wrestlers who competed in Las Vegas to compete in the team’s next meet in DeKalb against NIU. Heffernan said he sees many improvements the team needs to make as they are on their way to competing in conference dual meets after the holidays.

“We need to get better on the mat,” Heffernan said. “I think we know what we’re doing, but our effort isn’t very good, especially on top. We haven’t made it a priority, and we’re trying to start to push it a little bit. Wrestling last weekend pointed some of those things out. We’ve lost matches because we weren’t willing to work hard on top or hustle out of the bottom.”

This will be the last dual meet of the calendar year for the Illini, but their only other competition is at the Midlands Championships in Chicago on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. Overall, Heffernan said he feels the team is ready for the upcoming meets.

“They’re looking forward to it,” Heffernan said. “They like wrestling dual meets, and I think they’re excited to wrestle again. After that, we have a couple weeks break, so this is the last chance that they’re going to have (for) a couple weeks, so they better be excited.”

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