By University of Illinois Athletics
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 18 Fighting Illini wrestling dropped a tough battle at No. 4 Penn State, 22-16, Friday night. The Illini took four of the first six bouts, but could not hold on to pull off the upset on the road in their Big Ten opener. Illinois saw wins by redshirt freshman Justin Cardani (125), senior Travis Piotrowski (133), redshirt senior Eric Barone (157) and redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel (165).
“Overall a pretty good effort against a good team in a really tough environment,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “It was great to see (Eric) Barone get back on track. There was a lot of fight from our guys, and that’s something we need to expect from our guys every time out now. We need to be consistent, and if we are, we will continue to improve and get better.”
Redshirt freshman Justin Cardani led off with a strong performance for the Illini in the 125-pound bout against Brandon Meredith. After a scoreless first period and first minute of the second frame, Cardani was able to turn Meredith and pick up a four-point nearfall to take a 4-0 lead. Cardani tacked on a point for an escape in the third, and continued to control the match on the way to a 6-0 decision over Meredith. Cardani is now 8-5 on the season and 4-1 in dual matchups.
Senior Travis Piotrowski extended the Illini lead in his matchup against Austin Clabaugh. After controlling almost the entirety of the match and building an 8-3 lead, Piotrowski finished things off in the final seconds of the third, putting Clabaugh on his back and getting the fall time at 6:54. It was Piotrowski’s first pin of the season and the fourth of his career, which put Illinois up, 9-0, over Penn State. Piotrowski is now 14-2 on the season and still an unbeaten, 5-0, in duals this season.
After the Illini lost the next two matches, redshirt senior Eric Barone was able to keep the Illini in front with a win in the 157-pound bout over Bo Pipher. With the match scoreless early in the second, Barone was able to score two for a reversal, and then add two more with a two-point nearfall to take a 4-0 lead. Barone would add the point for riding time, and take a 5-2 decision over Pipher. Barone is now 7-7 on the year.
Redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel was dominant in what would be the last Illini victory of the evening. He tallied four takedowns and a two-point nearfall en route to earning a 12-3 major decision over Konner Kraeszig. Braunagel is now 14-4 this season and 4-1 in dual matchups.
Up next the Illini return home to take on Indiana at Huff Hall on Sunday, January 12 at 1 p.m. CT. Prior to the dual, the Illini will host their Great Escape Youth Wrestling Clinic, beginning at 11 a.m. CT. An autograph session with the Illinois wrestlers will be held after the match.
125: Justin Cardani (ILL) dec. Brandon Meredith (PSU), 6-0, ILL 3, PSU 0
133: No. 9 Travis Piotrowski Fall Austin Clabaugh (PSU), 6:54, ILL 9, PSU 0
141: No. 4 Nick Lee (PSU) major dec. No. 14 Dylan Duncan (ILL), 13-5, ILL 9, PSU 4
149: Jarod Verkleeren (PSU) dec. Mousa Jodeh (ILL), 6-2, ILL 9, PSU 7
157: No. 22 Eric Barone (ILL) dec. Bo Pipher (PSU), 5-2, ILL 12, PSU 7
165: No. 14 Danny Braunagel (ILL) major dec. Konner Kraeszig, 12-3, ILL 16, PSU 7
174: No. 1 Mark Hall (PSU) DQ No. 16 Joey Gunther (ILL), 5 stalling calls, ILL 16, PSU 13
184: No. 8 Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. No. 11 Zac Braunagel (ILL), 9-4, ILL 16, PSU 16
197: Shakur Rasheed (PSU) dec. Matt Wroblewski (ILL), 3-0, PSU 19, ILL 16
285: Seth Nevills (PSU) dec. Luke Luffman (ILL), 6-3, PSU 22, ILL 16