Illinois wrestling takes fourth at National Duals

Illinois sophomore Tony Dallago’s pin of Oklahoma State’s Chris McNeil with one minute, seven seconds left in the second period Sunday gave the Illini wrestling team a 15-13 lead with only two matches remaining.

But it wasn’t enough, as No. 5 Illinois lost to No. 1 Oklahoma State 19-15 in the semifinal round of the National Duals at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

“The bottom line is you win or you lose, and in the critical situations we lost,” Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan said.

At 197 pounds, sophomore Mario Gonzalez’s takedown with fewer than 10 seconds left in the third period knotted the match at six, as the two wrestlers headed into overtime. After grappling with no points scored for most of the extra period, Cowboys’ senior Cale

Byers snagged a takedown and claimed the 8-6 decision.

Byers’ win regained the lead for the Cowboys, who led 16-15 with only the heavyweight bout remaining.

The Cowboys’ No. 2 Alan Gelogaev wasn’t able to compete, so Illinois native Austin Marsden was forced to pull his redshirt status to compete for the hosts.

After nearly three periods of stalemate and trading an escape each, the Cowboys freshman, who won two IHSA state individual titles at Crystal Lake Central, recorded a takedown with 14 seconds left. The takedown lead to a 3-1 decision over Illinois heavyweight Pat Walker and clinched the dual meet victory for Oklahoma State.

“We had those guys on the ropes, we were the offensive guys the whole match and at the end, Oklahoma State guys found a way to score and we didn’t, that’s the bottom line,” Heffernan said.

After watching teammate B.J. Futrell end his 12-match winning streak at 133 pounds, junior Daryl Thomas blew a 6-3 second period lead after No. 12 Josh Kindig recorded a takedown with less than a minute remaining in the match that gave the Cowboys’ sophomore a 7-6 lead and eventual victory.

Sophomore Jackson Morse’s won 6-2 over No. 12 Albert White at 157, the highest-ranked opponent he’s defeated in his collegiate career, and Conrad Polz’s victory at 165 stopped a three-match losing streak for the Illini and cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 10-9.

Illinois lost three of the remaining four matches, however, dropping the dual meet and receiving a spot in the consolation round against No. 4 Iowa, which lost to No. 3 Minnesota 16-15 in the other semifinal dual meet that also came down to the heavyweight match. Illinois went on to lose the third-place meet against Iowa 28-6.

The Illini knew facing the No. 1 Cowboys in their own building would be tough, and it ultimately came down to a few points.

“I think going into the dual meet we thought we had them with 41, 57 and 97,” Heffernan said. “We lost in the last 30 seconds at 41 and we lost in overtime at 97. Otherwise we have a pretty comfortable lead going into heavyweight. Those are the matches that decided the dual meet.”

Those losses resulted in a six-point swing for Oklahoma State, which was essential in closing out its victory over Illinois.

Despite leading in various matches and late in the dual meet, Illinois lacked aggressiveness.

“We didn’t make things go our way,” Heffernan said. “That’s what disappoints me, not the fact that they lost, but the fact that we didn’t do enough to win those matches.”