By University of Illinois Athletics

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – No. 15 Illinois wrestling started strong and pulled away during the second half of its dual against No. 23 Michigan, defeating the Wolverines by a final score of, 20-13, at Huff Hall on Sunday. Redshirt freshman Justin Cardani (125), senior Travis Piotrowski (133) and redshirt junior Dylan Duncan (141) won the first three bouts of the match by decision to give Illinois an early, 9-0, lead. Redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel (165) and redshirt senior Joey Gunther (174) each won by major decision, giving the Illini crucial bonus points at the weight-classes to go up 17-7. Redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel sealed the Illini victory with his comeback, 5-4, decision victory over Jelani Embree at 184-pounds, which put the dual score officially out of Michigan’s reach. No. 15 Illinois is now 5-3 on the season and 2-2 in Big Ten duals.

“Pretty good effort overall,” said Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan. “I think our guys had some good energy and it was a good team effort. I think it’s always important to get out of the gates fast. I think Travis (Piotrowski), Justin Cardani and Dylan Duncan really did a good job. Obviously, Zac (Braunagel) in that situation if we win that match the dual is over. I think that was kind of a pressure thing that was really good. Really I think our team did pretty well.”

The Illini started the day with a victory at 125-pounds by redshirt freshman Justin Cardani. Taking on Jack Medley, the key moment in the match was Cardani’s takedown midway through the first period to take the initial 2-0 lead. He added a point for an escape in the third, and was solid defensively throughout on his way to the 3-2 decision victory that would give Illinois a 3-0 lead after the first match. Ranked 24th nationally at 125 by FloWrestling, Cardani is now 11-5 on the season, 7-1 in dual bouts and 4-0 in Big Ten dual matchups.

Senior Travis Piotrowski followed with a victory at 133-pounds over Austin Assad. Piotrowski recorded three takedowns and three escapes, and secured a 9-7 decision over Assad to give the Illini a 6-0 lead over the Wolverines. Piotrowski, ranked eighth nationally at 133, moves to 17-2 for the season, and a perfect 8-0 in dual bouts, including 4-0 in Big Ten matchups.

Redshirt junior Dylan Duncan extended the Illini lead with a shutout at 141-pounds. Taking a 3-0 lead into the third, Duncan was able to pick up two more with a takedown in the final minute of the period. He then rode out Cole Mattin the rest of the period, and was able to achieve the riding time point to give him a 6-0 decision victory. Ranked 12th in the nation at 141-pounds, Duncan is now 13-6 on the season.

After two wins by Michigan at 149 and 157 to cut the Illinois lead to 9-7, the Illini saw major decision victories at 165 and 174 that would help give them control of the match. Redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel tallied four takedowns and was awarded the riding time point to take a 10-2 major decision over Reece Hughes. Braunagel, ranked No. 14 in the nation at 165-pounds, is now 16-5 on the season and 3-1 in Big Ten duals.

Redshirt senior Joey Gunther then turned it on in the 174-pound bout against Max Maylor. Gunther finished with five takedowns, a four-point nearfall and the riding time point, scoring a season-high 15 points and winning by major decision over Maylor, 15-3. Ranked 22nd nationally at 174, Gunther moves to 12-4 in his final campaign.

With the two major decisions at 165 and 174 putting the Illinois lead at 17-7, the Illini could now clinch the match with a victory at 184-pounds. Redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel was able to come to come through for the Orange and Blue late in his matchup with Jelani Embree. Embree was leading, 4-3, in the closing seconds of the third until Braunagel was able to break through with a two-point takedown with 12 seconds to go. The takedown gave national-No. 14 Braunagel a 5-4 decision over No. 13 Embree. The win also pushed the Illinois lead to 20-7, putting the match officially out of reach for Michigan with just two bouts to go. Braunagel is now 14-6 on the season.

Illinois hands Michigan its first loss in a Big Ten dual this season. Additionally, the Illini move to 3-0 in duals at Huff Hall this season with today’s win.

Up next, the Illini will host two Big Ten dual matchups next weekend at Huff Hall, taking on Michigan State on Friday, January 31 at 7 p.m., and No.19 Northwestern on Sunday, February 2 at 1 p.m.

Full Results

125: No. 24 Justin Cardani (ILL) dec. Jack Medley (MICH), 3-2 | ILL 3, MICH 0
133: No. 8 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) dec. Austin Assad (MICH), 9-7 | ILL 6, MICH 0
141: No. 12 Dylan Duncan (ILL) dec. Cole Mattin (MICH), 6-0 | ILL 9, MICH 0
149: No. 12 Kanen Storr (MICH) major dec. Mousa Jodeh (ILL), 14-4 | ILL 9, MICH 4
157: No. 8 Will Lewan (MICH) dec. Eric Barone (ILL), 3-1 | ILL 9, MICH 7
165: No. 14 Danny Braunagel (ILL) major dec. Reece Hughes (MICH), 10-2 | ILL 13, MICH 7
174: No. 22 Joey Gunther (ILL) major dec. Max Marylo (MICH), 15-3 | ILL 17, MICH 7
184: No. 14 Zac Braunagel (ILL) dec. No. 13 Kelani Embree (MICH), 5-4 | ILL 20, MICH 7
197: Jackson Striggow (MICH) dec. Matt Wroblewski (ILL), 5-2 | ILL 20, MICH 10
285: No. 2 Mason Parris (MICH) dec. Luke Luffman (ILL), 12-5 | ILL 20 MICH 13