CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – No. 15 Illinois wrestling edged past No. 21 Northwestern, 19-18, Sunday afternoon at Huff Hall. Trailing 18-15 heading into the final bout, freshman Luke Luffman came through with a 14-4 major decision over Jack Heyob in the heavyweight match to give the Illini the 19-18 dual win. Illinois also saw wins on Sunday from redshirt freshman Justin Cardani (125), senior Travis Piotrowski (133) redshirt junior Dylan Duncan (141) and redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel (184). The Illini are now 7-3 overall this season, 4-2 in Big Ten duals and 5-0 at Huff Hall.
“We knew going into heavyweight just because of the way the other nine matches went that we weren’t going to win on criteria and had to get at least a major decision to win the dual meet,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “I went and told Luke (Luffman) that. He did a great job. He hustled, he wrestled hard, he was awesome.”
Redshirt freshman Justin Cardani started the dual with an upset win over No. 9 Michael DeAugustino. Cardani got out to the early lead with a takedown in the first. He’d tack on a point for an escape plus the riding time point to take a 4-2 decision over DeAugustino. Cardani is now 12-6 on the season, 8-2 in dual matchups, and 5-1 in Big Ten bouts.
Senior Travis Piotrowski kept his big season going with a dominant performance in the 133-pound bout. Going against Dylan Utterback, Piotrowski tallied five takedowns and two four-point nearfalls on his way to achieving a 20-3 tech. fall victory in the third period. Piotrowski, ranked seventh nationally at 133-pounds by FloWrestling, is now 19-2 on the season, and a perfect 10-0 in dual bouts.
Redshirt junior Dylan Duncan was able to extend the Illinois lead with a win against Alec McKenna in the 141-pound matchup. Duncan got out to an early, 2-0, lead with a takedown late in the first. He scored two more with a reversal in the second. Duncan earned the riding time point, and won a 5-0 decision over McKenna to put the Illinois advantage at 11-0. Nationally ranked No. 12 at 141-pounds, Duncan is now 15-6 on the season and 4-2 in Big Ten duals.
After dropping the next four bouts, Illinois needed a win at 184-pounds to get back on track. Redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel scored in the match with two takedowns, a reversal, a two-point nearfall a four-point nearfall and the riding time point, going on to win the bout by major decision over Jack Jessen, 13-2. Braunagel’s major decision evened the dual score at 15-15. Ranked 13th nationally at 184-pounds, Braunagel moves to 15-7 on the season.
After falling behind with a loss at 197-pounds, Illinois needed a bonus-points win at heavyweight to win the dual. Freshman Luke Luffman was able to deliver taking on Jack Heyob. Luffman tallied four takedowns en route to his 14-4 major decision victory over Heyob, which gave Illinois four team points to win the dual, 19-18. Luffman is now 13-7 on the season.
Up next, the Illini head to the east coast for a pair of Big Ten duals next weekend. Illinois faces off against Rutgers on Friday, February 7 at 6 p.m. CT. The Illini will then travel to Maryland for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Terrapins, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. CT. Both duals can be streamed with a subscription to BTN +.
125: Justin Cardani (ILL) dec. No. 9 Michael DeAugustino (NU), 4-2 | ILL 3, NU 0
133: No. 7 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) tech. fall Dylan Utterback (NU), 21-3 | ILL 8, NU 0
141: No. 12 Dylan Duncan (ILL) dec. Alec Mckenna (NU), 5-0 | ILL 11, NU 0
149: No. 16 Yahya Thomas (NU) dec. Mousa Jodeh (ILL), 2-1 | ILL 11, NU 3
157: No. 1 Ryan Deakin (NU) Fall Eric Barone (ILL), 5:38, | ILL 11, NU 9
165: No. 18 Shayne Oster (NU) dec. No. 15 Danny Braunagel (ILL), 7-6 | NU 12, ILL 11
174: Tyler Morland (NU) dec. No. 22 Joey Gunther (ILL), 2-0 | NU 15, ILL 11
184: No. 13 Zac Braunagel (ILL) major dec. Jack Jessen (NU), 13-2 | ILL 15, NU 15
197: No. 12 Lucas Davison (NU) dec. Matt Wroblewski (ILL), 5-0 | NU 18, ILL 15
285: Luke Luffman (ILL) major dec. Jack Heyob (NU), 14-4 | ILL 19, NU 18