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Preview: The ILLINI vs. Stupid Indiana

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  • Preview: The ILLINI vs. Stupid Indiana

    WHAT: Dual with Indiana
    WHERE: Huff Hall (No Fans Allowed)
    WHEN: Sunday, January 10, 2021, 11am (Central)
    WHY WE HATE INDIANA: It's not so much that we hate Indiana, my friends, oh no, on the contrary, what we feel is pity. They live an unending Groundhog Day life part World War Z and Nightmare on Elm Street and part bad wrestling. They were born with all the yokel genes with which Iowans were graced, but none of the wrestling skills. That, of course, means they are rather dumb and yet defenseless. Evolution will eventually take care of them, but until then, it will be up to the ILLINI wrestling team.
    TV: BTN

    Since the year 2000, when Nintendo introduced the GameCube and Dale Earnhardt Sr won his last race at Talladega Speedway, the ILLINI have remained undefeated against the Hoosiers, going a spotless 12-0. The last time out, on January 12, 2020, the ILLINI mistreated the Hoosier wrestling team to the tune of 32-3. This is what that looked like on paper:

    125: Justin Cardani (ILL) dec. Liam Cronin (IU), 6-2, ILL 3, IU 0
    133: No. 8 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) dec. Cayden Rooks (IU), 3-1, ILL 6, IU 0
    141: No. 14 Dylan Duncan (ILL) major dec. Eddie Bolivar (IU), 10-0, ILL 10, IU 0
    149: Graham Rooks (IU), dec. Mousa Jodeh (ILL), 6-1, ILL 10, IU 3
    157: No. 22 Eric Barone (ILL) dec. Fernie Silva (IU), 4-0, ILL 13, IU 3
    165: No. 14 Danny Braunagel (IU) tech. fall Davey Tunon (IU), 18-3, ILL 18, IU 3
    174: No. 16 Joey Gunther (ILL) dec. No. 24 Jacob Covaciu (IU), 3-1, ILL 21, IU 3
    184: No. 11 Zac Braunagel (ILL) tech. fall Jake Hinz (IU), 18-3, ILL 26, IU 3
    197: Matt Wroblewski (ILL) dec. Nick Willham (IU), 3-1, ILL 29, IU 3
    285: Luke Luffman (ILL) dec. Rudy Streck (IU), 4-1, ILL 32, IU 3

    Since then, the Hoosiers have upgraded their roster, while the ILLINI will be missing Piotrowski, Barone and Gunther to graduation. The good guys do welcome back Mikey Carr and add Lucas Byrd, Johnny Mologousis and one of the three-headed monsters at 174 (Shannon, Riojas or Sizemore). According to, there could be an improvement for the Hoosiers in the final dual score from last year. That site predicts a 27-6 win for the Orange and Blue.


    125 #35 JUSTIN CARDANI vs. #24 BROCK HUDKINS. This weight is supposed to be an area of improvement for the Hoosiers. They lost Liam Cronin to Nebraska, but brought back previously-injured Brock Hudkins. Wrestlestat sees this as a 5-4 victory for the Indiana kid. He's a transfer from Northern Illinois, where he qualified for nationals twice, making it to the Round of 12 as a freshman. Depending on how he's recovered from injury, Hudkins' #24 ranking could be low or high. He's a big, strong kid, who physically resembles Spencer Lee. The ILLINI might have a weight-cut advantage if this match starts off the dual, assuming Cardani is not yet cutting a lot.

    Of special note, Hudkins will throw in a leg while riding. Cardani will need to be prepared for that. The Hoosier will keep the leg in or slip it down to hook the ankle. If you get low, he will get low with an extra-wide stance, which could be exploited by a quicker wrestler. In his young career, Justin Cardani has shown the ability to compete with the big, strong 125 pound wrestlers. In fact, the best transitive comparison between Hudkins and Cardani is one of those, Central Michigan's Drew Hildebrandt, a top ten wrestler at the weight. He beat Cardani 1-0. The Hoosier beat the CMU wrestler in three of four matches, but the wins were all very close, including a sudden victory. The loss came about four years ago, and it was by six points.

    133 #34 Lucas Byrd vs. #84 Asa Garcia. This looks like another match that provides a reason for the ILLINI to start the dual at the lower weights. Garcia wrestled 132 in freestyle in high school two years ago. Last year, he had a very successful redshirt campaign (21-6), even though he wrestled at 141 and even 149 for a couple of matches. These folks have no common opponents, but wrestlestat still sees a major decision win for the ILLINI based on the rankings.

    I have no idea what to make of this match as wrestlestat is calling for a major, but Garcia had a good year last year, including first place at the Lindenwood and National Collegiate Opens. He was a three-timer in high school in Indiana and was ranked #9 as a recruit at 133 by Flo. He also had an impressive win last year at the MSU Open against Michigan's Cole Mattin. On the other hand, Garcia lost to the #132 and #207 wrestlers at 141 last year. He also gave up a tech and a fall to the #19 and #48 wrestlers. He could be very sucked out for this dual.

    From what little I've seen of him, the Hoosier kid looks like a slightly bigger Liam Cronin. He likes to tie up, will throw a fireman's or slide-by, and goes for the two-on-one tilt or bar-arm tilts. This will be the first time we get to see Lucas Byrd in the starting lineup, and he will have a gamer to beat.

    141. #23 Dylan Duncan vs. #43 Paul Konrath. The third match in the dual also should be pretty good. Duncan will be favored (wrestlestat predicts a 7-5 win for him), but don't sell Konrath out, as he's no slouch. He usually keeps it close with good wrestlers and even picked off then-#8 Tariq Wilson of NC State in the dual two years ago. He must be coming back from injury, though, as he only wrestled six matches last year, and was decidedly mediocre.

    Konrath is a very solid Big Ten wrestler with a meat-and-potatoes approach, although he shows some scrambling ability on the defensive side. He will be in shape and will fight for seven minutes. If I had to say who had the weight-cutting advantage, I'd say it was probably even. This is Duncan's senior season, and folks are looking for a big year from him.

    149. #19 Mike Carr vs. #40 Graham Rooks. This will be a really good match to see where Mikey Carr is in his recovery from injury. His opponent from Indiana is very solid, having qualified for NCAAs last year with a 15-10 record. Rooks' record was padded with two wins against Mousa Jodeh, but they were relatively close at 6-1 and 5-2. The latter came at the Big Ten Championships, and Jodeh actually had a shot to win it.

    Knowing Carr's penchant for working out and staying in shape, and the fact that he is moving up in weight versus a guy who wrestled at 149 last year, you'd have to think the weight-cutting advantage will be with the ILLINI. Last season, the Hoosier had some quality wins over Yahya Thomas, Griffin Parriott, Cole Martin and Collin Purinton. He lost by only 2-3 against Michigan's Kanen Stoor at the Big Ten Championships.

    Wrestlestat sees this as a 7-4 Carr win. Speaking for all of ILLINI fandom, it will be good to see this Warrior-Poet back in action.

    157. #134 Johnny Mologousis vs. #138 Matt Ortiz. This will be the battle of the new starters, as Mologousis joins the ILLINI lineup, while Matt Ortiz comes off his redshirt freshman year campaign. Ortiz, from St. Charles and having wrestled for Montini, is listed at this weight by wrestlestat, but he was listed as a recruit at 174 coming out of the IHSA. That's kind of like Mongo! If Indiana wrestles somebody else against Mologousis, they will not be as good.
    During his redshirt year, Ortiz wrestled at 165 to start off, and then he dropped down to 157. He finished with a 14-9 record, but that was actually 5-6 against Division 1 opponents. His best win to date was against the #106 wrestler during that freshman year. He lost twice to a bumped-up Quinn Kinner from Ohio State by the scores of 6-3 and 14-2. I would guess a 6-3 ILLINI win.

    If the Orange and Blue start the dual off at 125 as expected, we'll get some early definitive answers about who's going 125 and 133 between Cardani and Byrd. We also get to see Duncan's progress (healthy we hope!) against a decent conference wrestler. Of course, we are all wanting to see a healthy Mikey Carr back in the lineup to provide a spark, and we'll see Johnny Mologousis take over for Eric Barone in the rotation.

    To be continued ...

  • #2

    The first half of the dual should at least be competitive. IU Coach Angel Escobedo should be commended for moving the Hoosiers forward. He welcomed in a recruiting class two years ago with eight or nine high schoolers ranked at their weights by Flo. Sure, they weren’t highly ranked, but they would eventually form a nucleus of decent Big Ten wrestlers. After intermission, the ILLINI will have it a little easier. The Hoosiers are somewhat less competitive at the upper weights.

    165. #18 DANNY BRAUNAGEL vs. #73 NICHOLAS SOUTH. This is a battle between the #18 under-ranked ILLINI and the #73 Hoosier. South was 18-5 last year as a freshman, but seven of the wins came against non-Division One wrestlers. His best win last year was against the #78 wrestler, while he also had losses against #168 and #94. What he can do is keep it close and low scoring versus good wrestlers. Case in point: He lost 4-7 loss to Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla.

    In the only two videos I could find of the Hoosier—both from his high school days—he was throwing Greco at his opponents. That could be a bad move against the Brawlnagel. Judging from his low-scoring college results, he hasn’t had much success with the Greco on this level, at least so far. He’s a stocky fellow, and will keep square on defense. Look for Brawny to wear him down and get a decision.

    174. #36 DAVID RIOJAS or #44 DJ SHANNON or #116 TREY SIZEMORE vs. #33 DONNELL WASHINGTON. At this time, there is no preview up at for the dual, so we have no idea who the coaches are leaning towards for the start. Whatever happens, the Hoosier at #33 will be the higher-ranked wrestler. David Riojas is #36, DJ Shannon comes in at #44, and Trey Sizemore (because of an injury early last year during his redshirt campaign) is ranked at #116.

    Washington had a win last year against DJ Shannon by a 9-2 score, and he has a significantly better record (4-1) against common opponents than David Riojas (1-3). Trey Sizemore did beat the IU kid at the MSU Open, but it was by disqualification, as Washington became my least favorite wrestler in college with an illegal dump of the ILLINI. That injury kept Sizemore out for the season.

    The Hoosier is tall and rangy and could be the best wrestler on the IU squad. So far, his best college matches from his redshirt year were the wins against Riojas, Shannon, Wisconsin’s Jared Krattiger (7-6) and Northwestern’s Troy Fisher by fall, as well as a close loss to Ohio State’s Rocky Jordan (3-4). predicts a Hoosier win here. Without the Covid, I would love to see Sizemore out there seeking revenge for his win (and injury), and I’d like to see Sizemore in the second and third periods on top pounding Washington with his mat wrestling. Because of Covid, the ILLINI coaches will probably have to go with the wrestler they believe will have the most success against all conference opponents.

    184. #22 ZAC BRAUNAGEL vs. #220 SEAN GRIM. It is not often that we have a wrestler’s last name reflect—so accurately—their fate in an upcoming dual. Indiana’s chances in this match are grim at best. Sean Grim is ranked #220 and had a 3-8 record last year. Four of his losses last year were by fall, with another two by major decision. He lost all three of his matches against Division One opponents, including a 6-13 blowout against the #205 ranked wrestler. I expect a fall from the Brawlnagel, although wrestlestat is predicting a tech.

    I received a message from a source who said that Donnell Washington could go at this weight for Indiana. The source then noted that the Hoosiers had wrestle-offs, and Washington wasn’t listed at 184. I would expect a comfortable win from Brawlnagel over Washington, if he was up at 184. The fellow who won the IU wrestle-off at 184 is a freshman named Drayton Harris. He was a four-year placer in the Missouri state high school championships. I would expect a Brawny tech or major against him. ( doesn’t list Drayton Harris on the Indiana roster, but he’s on the school’s roster, and he was listed as the winner of the wrestle-off on IU Wrestling’s Facebook page).

    197. #48 MATT WROBLEWSKI vs. #79 NICK WILHAM. If this is the matchup we get, then that would be fine by me. They wrestled three times last year with Wrobocop winning all three, although the scores were tight (3-1, 3-1 & 3-2). Wilham started as a freshman last year and finished with a 16-20 record, 10-19 against D1. He’s ranked #79 at wrestlestat compared to Wroblewski’s #49.
    Wilham’s best win was against the #78 wrestler from Brown, and he suffered through ten consecutive Big Ten conference losses during dual season and at the Big Ten Championships. Still, as we saw last year, this is a competitive match with the edge to the ILLINI.

    Another competitive match would be Wrobocop versus #41 Garrett Hoffman, who transferred into Indiana from Bucknell, where he qualified for NCAAs as a freshman with an 18-16 record. He’s been out with injuries for a couple of years, and there was no wrestle-off at 197, so I expect we’ll see Wilham. Wrestlestat predicts a decision victory for the ILLINI no matter who wrestles for IU.

    285. #34 LUUUUUKE LUFFMAN vs. #119 BRANDON STRECK. This is another match with some history. Luffman won two against the Hoosier last year, including 4-1 and 5-4 decisions. Look for more of the same here. The ILLINI is 7-0 against common opponents, including the two wins over the IU kid, while Streck is 1-7 against the same guys.
    The backups for Streck are worse, so I think we get a rematch, and this is one where Luffman can show his growth in confidence, aggression and skill to great advantage. Also, I hate to say it this early in the season, but this is actually a must-win for him, as he will face the #1, #2, #4, #6, #7 and #28 heavyweights in the country in conference.
    CORRECTION: I have the match set for Huff Hall. It will actually take place in Bloomington, Indiana. I do not know what Covid restrictions they will have in place for fans.


    • #3
      Justin Cardani 125 lbs. Brock Hudkins or Jacob Moran
      Lucas Byrd 133 lbs. Cayden Rooks
      Dylan Duncan 141 lbs. Paul Konrath
      Mike Carr 149 lbs. Graham Rooks or Luke Baughman
      Johnny Mologousis 157 lbs. Matt Ortiz or Jonathan Kervin
      Danny Braunagel 165 lbs. Nick South or Robert Deters
      Trey Sizemore 174 lbs. DJ Washington
      Zac Braunagel 184 lbs. Drayton Harris
      Matt Wroblewski 197 lbs. Nick Willham
      Luke Luffman HWT Jacob Bullock


      • #4
        Mikey Carr is back!

        Dark Horse Trey Sizemore gets the start!

        I should have gone with my instinct and not and penciled in Cayden Rooks in the IU lineup at 133. He's a good wrestler and will provide a test for Lucas Byrd.

        All of the Indiana "or" wrestlers and heavyweight Jacob Bullock should be easier matches for the ILLINI ... if they happen. The "or" guy at 125 would be a much easier match for Cardani.

        GO ILLINI!!!


        • #5
          Will this be on BTN or streaming somewhere?


          • #6
            Huff, I only see BTN on the preview at Indiana still hasn't put up their preview. The BTN+ schedule does show that the dual will be offered, but only as a replay.

            Looks like I'll have to fork over the bucks for a BTN+ subscription, then watch the replay. The question for me is whether I follow along "live" on Twitter and spoil the replay somewhat? Probably.

            GO ILLINI!!!


            • #7
              That sucks I'll be following on twitter as well then


              • #8
                Michigan ST. VS Rutgers is on now. 8 p.m. Minny vs. Nebraska. That replay is at 1 a.m. Illinois is on at 11 a.m. on Sunday.


                • #9
                  Thanks, eyecu2! I forgot about that. Will have to look for the results. My prediction: Michigan 26-7, and no Suriano.


                  • #10
                    Nebraska over Minnesota 22-14. No Venz or Lovett for Nebraska.


                    • #11
                      A couple of amendments to the Preview given the new-to-me Hoosier lineup:

                      133. LUCAS BYRD vs. CAYDEN ROOKS. In looking at Rooks' freshman campaign as a starter, I had forgotten that Lucas Byrd beat him 6-2 at the MSU Open. I did remember the Hoosier putting up a good fight against Piotrowski during last year's dual. Pio won 3-1, but I remarked at the time that the ILLINI looked sick during that match.

                      Even with Pio being under the weather, I thought Rooks looked like a good wrestler in the future. But, Byrd will have confidence and film to look at and a coach who wrestled the IU kid last year.

                      285. LUUUUKE LUFFMAN vs. JACOB BULLOCK. Luke is 2-1 against common opponents, while Bullock is 0-4. The Hoosier transferred in from Old Dominion, where he was a one-year starter with an 11-18 record, and with a best win against the #79 heavy.

                      I guess if you're Angel Escobedo you'd hope that Bullock is an improvement over Brandon Streck. Maybe so, maybe not. In his wins, Bullock kept the scores low and the action slow. I expect that Luke LUFFMAN won't allow that.

                      GO ILLINI!!!


                      • #12
                        How about the debut of former Montini standout Dylan Ragusin, in his first match as a true freshmen getting the pin in 1 minute with a cowcatcher, good for the local kid


                        • #13
                          I can only comment specifically about 125 because that match is already loaded up on youtube:

                          So impressed with Cardani today. He wears great wrestlers out by shooting and going underneath, then holding on with a grip of steel. That final takedown was performance art, timed for maximum drama. Big win for the Cardanalorian!

                          Generally, I'd say that this is a better IU team than last year. To put up a score like they did today shows me that the ILLINI came to wrestle.

                          Finally, I hope Trey Sizemore doesn't get too down. Donnell Washington is gonna beat a lot of good wrestlers this year.

                          Any exhibitions?

                          GO ILLINI!!!


                          • #14
                            According to trackwrestling these were the extra matches:
                            Extra: Jacob Moran (Indiana) over Joshua Contreras (Illinois) (Dec 3-2)
                            Extra: Danny Pucino (Illinois) over Jonathan Moran (Indiana) (MD 14-6)
                            Extra: Eddie Ordonez (Illinois) over Derek Gilcher(Indiana) (Dec 3-1)
                            Extra: DJ Shannon (Illinois) over Robert Deters(Indiana) (Dec 7-5)

                            Illini looked great and seems like with such a short and challenging schedule these dominant wins will help with tournament seeding too.


                            • #15
                              Cardani is one tough little sucker. Byrd was really impressive today on his feet. He's legit. Duncan started a little slow but got better as the match progressed. Carr looks to be right where he left off: tough as nails. Mologousis' match was not particularly memorable, but he won. Both of the Braunagels looked tough as usual. Sizemore wrestled a tough kid who was really gassed going into the third, but he could not take advantage. Wroblewski looks like the same kid as last year. Luffman looks better, but he still needs work on his feet. Once he gassed the other kid, he became super aggressive and got several takedowns. He needs to do that from the beginning. Overall, it was a good start to the season. The team was in better shape than Indiana and it showed.