Illinois wrestling defeats No. 17 Northwestern to end conference dual season

After three consecutive Big Ten dual-meet losses, the No. 8 Illinois wrestling team bounced back to beat No. 17 Northwestern 24-10 to finish off the conference dual season.

Jesse Delgado has been dominant for the Illini at 125 pounds this season, and Sunday’s match against Northwestern proved to be no different, as the sophomore defeated Dominick Malone by a 4-0 decision. With the win, Delgado improved his overall record to 17-3 and his Big Ten record to 6-1.

The Illini then increased their lead to 6-0 over the Wildcats after 133-pound No. 10 Daryl Thomas wrestled to a victory over Northwestern’s Garrison White 14-8. After the Illini’s Steven Rodrigues was defeated by Pat Greco 8-6 in the 141-pound match, 149-pound Caleb Ervin got the Illini back on track as he put four more points on the board by defeating Dylan Marriot by a 13-2 major decision, increasing the Illini lead to 10-3.

“It’s important to start off any meet winning,” head coach Jim Heffernan said. “I think we were really aggressive at almost every weight, which is what we preach every day. We hustled, we had some emotion, and all those things are really good. Overall, we were pretty happy with the emotion and the fire the guys showed.”

At 157 pounds, No. 2 Jason Welch of Northwestern improved his overall record to 24-1 on the season, as he captured the major decision over the Illini’s Matt Nora. Illinois’ returning All-American at 165 pounds, No. 7 Conrad Polz, then defeated No. 10 Pierce Harger by a 2-0 decision to widen the gap to 13-7.

“I’m a little disappointed in my performance because I wanted to put some more points on the board for my team,” Polz said. “I really think I need to open up my offense a little more on my feet earlier to get to my shots and focus on scoring early, but the win was important to get my seed for the Big Tens and to make the postseason a little bit easier on myself.”

In one of the more anticipated matches of the night, 174-pounder No. 8 Jordan Blanton took on No. 9 Lee Munster. Blanton lost his previous three matches by close decisions against top-10 opponents, but this time was different. He defeated Munster in dominant fashion with a 13-3 major decision.

No. 16 Tony Dallago and No. 14 Mario Gonzalez continued the Illini’s success on the night as they captured victories at 184 and 197 pounds, respectively. Dallago won by an 11-0 major decision over Jacob Berkowitz, while Gonzalez was able to capture his 11th win of the season as he defeated Alex Polizzi 5-2.

The last match of the night ended in a Wildcat victory, as No. 7 Mike McMullan defeated the Illini’s Chris Lopez by a 6-2 decision.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @yaboybernie11.