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ILLINI Previews of Rutgers & Iowa

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  • ILLINI Previews of Rutgers & Iowa

    WHAT: ILLINOIS versus Rutgers, Big Ten Conference Dual
    WHEN: Friday, January 14 at 6:00 pm (Central)
    WHERE: Jersey Mike’s Arena, Piscataway, New Jersey
    WHY: East Coast Domination Starts Now!
    HISTORY: 3-1, ILLINI, all in the last 6 years
    LAST MATCH: ILLINI 29, Rutgers 6, February 7, 2020 @Rutgers
    COVID RESTRICTIONS: The Rutgers site specifically provides that all spectators must show up with either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours, as well as a valid ID card. Masks must be worn in the facility. Only beverages are sold at concessions.


    As you know, the ILLINI finished in fourth place at the Matmen Open without a great deal of their lineup, and with many others getting injured at the tournament. Like ILLINOIS, Rutgers had nine scoring wrestlers. The ILLINI finished with 105 points with Rutgers right behind at 94.


    The ILLINI started out on fire and never slowed down on February 7, 2020 in the RAC Center. Wins came from Cardani, Piotrowski, Duncan, Barone, both Braunagels, Gunther and Luffman.

    The slight upset by Cardani over Nick Aguilar got things rolling. The evening went completely south for Rutgers when Travis Piotrowski pinned #9 Sammy Alvarez in the next match. Later, Zac Braunagel helped to close it out with a minor upset over New Jersey schoolboy legend Billy Janzer. Here’s the box score:

    125: No. 21 Justin Cardani (ILL) dec. No. 17 Nicolas Aguilar, 3-2 | ILL 3, RU 0
    133: No. 7 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) Fall No. 9 Sammy Alvarez (RU), 2:43 | ILL 9, RU 0
    141: No. 11 Dylan Duncan (ILL) major dec. JoJo Aragona (RU), 8-0 | ILL 13, RU 0
    149: Nick Santos (RU) dec. Mousa Jodeh (ILL), 8-2 | ILL 13, RU 3
    157: Eric Barone (ILL) dec. Michael Van Brill (RU), 2-1 | ILL 16, RU 3
    165: No. 13 Danny Braunagel (ILL) dec. Brett Donner (RU), 4-3 | ILL 19, RU 3
    174: No. 14 Joey Gunther (ILL) dec. Willie Scott (RU), 1-0 | ILL 22, RU 3
    184: No. 14 Zac Braunagel (ILL) TB-1 No. 12 Billy Janzer (RU), | ILL 25, RU 3
    197: No. 19 Jordan Pagano (RU) dec. No. 30 Matt Wroblewski (ILL), 5-0 | ILL 25, RU 6
    285: No. 25 Luke Luffman (ILL) major dec. Alex Esposito (RU), 11-3 | ILL 29, RU 6


    Rutgers brought an 11-0 record into Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers. They lost 14-19. had predicted a 22-10 win for Rutgers. Andre’s kiss of death! Note that Rutgers' eleven victims on their schedule have been Bloomsburg, Clarion, Indiana, Cleveland State, Davidson, Chattanooga, North Carolina, Hofstra, Army, New Jersey City University and American. John Poznanski has certainly established his All American cred with his start to the year. On the other hand, at 174, AA Jackson Turley has seemed lost. Sebastian Rivera has been a bonus machine. Here is the dual box score for the Rutgers/Wisconsin match:

    No. 16 Wisconsin 19, No. 12 Rutgers 14
    125: 4/12/6 Eric Barnett (WISC) over 30/HM/NR Dylan Shawver (RU) by decision, 8-4; WISC leads, 3-0
    133:Joseph Olivieri (RU) over 25/NR/NR Kyle Burwick (WISC) by decision, 4-3; Dual tied, 3-3
    141: 4/3/3 Sebastian Rivera (RU) over 24/NR/NR Joseph Zargo (WISC) by TF, 18-3; RU leads, 8-3
    149: 11/14/11 Austin Gomez (WISC) over 19/HM/NR Michael VanBrill (RU) by MD, 11-1; RU leads, 8-7
    157: 33/NR/NR Garret Model (WISC) over Robert Kanniard (RU) by decision, 13-8; WISC leads, 10-8
    165: 8/12/9 Dean Hamiti (WISC) over Andrew Clark (RU) by decision, 10-4; WISC leads, 13-8
    174: 17/22/16 Andrew McNally (WISC) over 26/22/20 Jackson Turley (RU) by decision, 6-1; WISC leads, 16-8
    184: 5/5/5 John Poznanski (RU) over 33/NR/NR Chris Weiler (WISC) by decision, 12-5; WISC leads, 16-11
    197: 7/11/10 Greg Bulsak (RU) over 24/HM/NR Braxton Amos (WISC) by decision, 8-7; WISC leads, 16-14
    HWT: 5/6/7 Trent Hilger (WISC) over Boone McDermott (RU) by decision, 6-3; WISC wins, 19-14


    JUSTIN CARDANI (9-2) vs. DYLAN SHAWVER (13-3). The ILLINI is riding high after winning the ILLINOIS Matmen Open. Shawver was actually the #1 seed in that tournament, but he ended up wrestling for fifth. has Rutgers beating the ILLINI 25-9 at this point (but the Rutgers loss to Wisconsin hasn’t been factored in yet; Wow! Rutgers' loss to Wisconsin has now been factored in, and somehow widened the predicted win for Rutgers to 28-6. Amazing!). Eerily, wrestlestat picks Cardani to win a 5-4 match, even though that same service ranks Shawver at #26 and the ILLINI at (an underrated) #44.

    The Scarlet Knight is 3-4 against common opponents. The ILLINI lightweight is 8-4 against the same guys.

    This difference in the transitive property is mostly due to Cardani beating two of the same guys at the Matmen Open that Shawver lost to in overtime. Also, the ILLINI has multiple wins against Liam Cronin of Nebraska/Indiana. This is set up to be a very close match, possibly a dual-deciding match. It will also be a crucial match when it comes to Big Ten and NCAA seeding. This is Shawver’s second year starting and in the lineup for Rutgers. He can be dangerous, having upset Patrick McKee in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last season. (Then, he lost three of the next four).

    The rest of the Rutgers Preview and the first-half of the Iowa Preview can be found here.

  • #2
    Part two of the ILLINI Preview of the Iowa dual is now up here.



    • #3
      Given the results to date, it is apparent that Duncan and Carr will not be wrestling for the Illini this year. Unless the injured Illini get healthy really quickly, they are in for a long season.


      • #4

        The Rutgers dual later today at 6:00 pm (Central) will be streamed on BTN+. That is a pay service for which you'll need a subscription. Because you'll likely hear some local yokel providing play-by-play and analysis, here is some of the Jersey slang you might hear:

        "The Shore" ... They don't call the beach on their coastline a beach, they call it the shore.

        "Benny" ... Somebody from New York visiting their shore.

        "Hit the MAC" ... It means stopping to get cash at the ATM.

        "How you Doin'" ... This is how stupid people in New Jersey greet other stupid people in New Jersey.

        "Plain Pie" ... Pizza with only cheese.

        "Duh" ... This term will be peppered throughout the broadcast by any Jersey native. It simply means their brain is not working at the time.

        The Iowa dual will be broadcast Sunday at 3:00 pm (Central) on BTN proper. Hopefully, Shane Sparks will take Trey Sizemore under his wing and give him sideline reporting duties.

        Sizemore did a great job commentating for BTN+ as an injured Freshman. He's not listed as a starter for the Iowa dual, so he can be put to work. There is absolutely no bias when I say that he provided the best commentary on BTN+ that whole season (and any other season) other than Minnesota's Mack Reiter. And you know that I'm being unbiased and honest when I mention a Minnesota Golden Rodent in anything close to glowing terms.

        Justin Cardani 9-2 125 lbs. Dylan Shawver 13-3
        Lucas Byrd 10-1 133 lbs. Joseph Olivieri -OR- Devon Britton 15-3; 7-6
        We Rachal 8-8 141 lbs. Sebastian Rivera 14-0
        Christian Kanzler 8-5 149 lbs. Michael VanBrill 10-1
        Joe Roberts 9-7 157 lbs. Robert Kanniard -OR- Al DeSantis 6-6; 9-5
        Danny Braunagel 7-5 165 lbs. Andrew Clark 9-11
        DJ Shannon 4-4 174 lbs. Jackson Turley -OR- Connor O'Neill 3-3; 9-7
        Zac Braunagel 6-2 184 lbs. John Poznanski 12-0
        Matt Wroblewski 4-2 197 lbs. Greg Bulsak 14-0
        Luke Luffman 10-2 HWT Boone McDermott 9-6

        Justin Cardani 9-2 125 lbs. Drake Ayala 11-3
        Lucas Byrd 10-1 133 lbs. Austin DeSanto -OR- Charles Matthews 11-0; 4-5
        We Rachal 8-8 141 lbs. Jaydin Eierman -OR- Drew Bennett 11-0; 2-4
        Christian Kanzler 8-5 149 lbs. Max Murin -OR- Cobe Siebrecht 4-1; 5-2
        Joe Roberts 9-7 157 lbs. Kaleb Young 7-5
        Danny Braunagel 7-5 165 lbs. Alex Marinelli 12-0
        DJ Shannon 4-4 174 lbs. Michael Kemerer -OR- Brennan Swafford 2-0; 12-6
        Zac Braunagel 6-2 184 lbs. Abe Assad 7-2
        Matt Wroblewski 4-2 197 lbs. Jacob Warner 8-1
        Luke Luffman 10-2 HWT Tonny Cassioppi -OR- Aaron Costello 6-2; 11-2
        The outcome of both duals will depend greatly upon the "ors" that may or may not fill in the lineup for Rutgers and Iowa. There is a large drop off in talent from Austin DeSanto to Charles Matthews, for example. The ILLINI could win from eight to zero matches against the Hawkeyes, depending upon who wrestles and how the tossups go.


        • #5
          We are in for a long year with holes at 141, 149, 157 and 174, and with the Braunagels apparently regressing from their freshman year stats. Byrd must feel lonely in this lineup.


          • #6
            Reposted from

            OVERVIEW. No post immediately after the Rutgers match. Terunofuji lost for the first time in the January basho in Sumo yesterday morning, then the ILLINI lost at Rutgers yesterday evening. I was in no mood.

            Terunofuji won this morning so the world looks a little better.

            Standouts at the dual were Lucas Byrd, who dominated with a veteran AA-like performance, Danny Braunagel with a workmanlike win, DJ Shannon with a win and some acrobatics, and Luuuuke Luffman with a dominant win after a surprising first-period takedown for his opponent.
            Christian Kanzler gets a pass, as he was obviously still bothered by his knee, which is wrapped up pretty well. Still, he almost beat Mike van Brill, a darn good wrestler, losing 2-3. Overall, the ILLINI need to find the Fighting Spirit within them.


            JAKE REICIN. EXHIBITION. 157. Didn't count on the extra matches. Logged on early, but was late for Reicin versus Al DeSantis. First period, Jake snatches a single, converts it to a double and gets a takedown. 2-0. Rutgers escapes, and DeSantis gets his own takedown and rides out the first period. After that, Jake gassed bad. At the end of the third, the Scarlet Knight with the riding point for the tech. Hope it's not long Covid.

            NOTE: These extra matches are great for the wrestlers. They are also great for the video/audio team. There shouldn't be any surprises or glitches with the streaming when the actual dual starts.

            JUSTIN CARDANI. 125. The ILLINI with a shot that was stopped immediately. If you're going to count on one takedown to win a match, you better make sure your opponent isn't sitting there waiting with a cow-catcher. They stalemate. Late in the first, Dylan Shawver with the nice snap down and go-behind. (Drake Ayala has a better one, so Justin better be ready for it). The Scarlet Knight with the ride out to end of the first. Cardani rides hard for over a minute in the second and gets a minute riding time before Shawver does a standing granby that Cardani does not follow. The score is 3-0. They go neutral in the third period, and Cardani cannot convert a takedown. This is a match that the ILLINI could've and should've won. He was the better mat wrestler, but he let one takedown beat him. Justin finished in first place at the Matmen Open, while Shawver finished in fifth, losing to two guys Cardani beat.

            LUCAS BYRD. 133. The ILLINI uses his underhook danger position takedown; with it, Lucas suggests a lateral drop, and Olivieri gives up two instead of going to his back. Another Byrd special is the head in the hole takedown. He runs it to perfection. Another takedown from Byrd is a single switched to a double and four back points. This is a major decision for the ILLINI All American. It was a dominant 13-2 win for Lucas over a very good but still young wrestler. The announcers even say to Oliveri in the match, "Welcome to the Big Ten, kid." Haha! Team Score is 4-3 good guys.

            NOTE: This ref has the Slowest Swipes In The World. I ate dinner between swipe three and swipe four. Hometown refs.

            WE RACHAL. 141. Quick takedown by Rivera. On top Sebastian Rivera with the wrist control. The Scarlet Knight puts in double boots. Escape for Rachal. Second stalling call on Rachal. The ILLINI tries a throw at the end of the first period but loses his grip and lands on his own back. 5-1 Rutgers at the end of one. Third stall called. 7-1. Fourth stall. 8-1 Tech fall. Got chippy. I expected more from We Rachal even though we know Rivera is a great wrestler. Team score Rutgers 8-4.

            CHRISTIAN KANZLER. 149. He's going against Mike van Brill, who looks pretty sucked out. Kanzler actually looks bigger. No real shots in 2 minutes. Escape from Van Brill with only 20 seconds of riding time in the second period. Kanzler looked limited by a large brace on his leg. That played a part in Van Brill scoring a single-leg takedown in the third period. 3-2 win for Van Brill. The Scarlet Knight is a good wrestler; if Kanzler can heal up his knee, he could beat him. Rutgers 11-4.

            JOE ROBERTS. 157. Robert Kanniard is the opponent. Roberts shoots in off the whistle, and they begin to scramble. The ILLINI left legs wide open in this dual. Takedown for Kanniard. Rutgers riding legs, and Roberts can't get out. Finally, after 90 seconds, Roberts is out. The ILLINI gave up his legs too easily here. He had a shot to tie it up at the end, but he kept giving up his leg to the Scarlet Knight who kept grabbing it. Roberts may have one better opportunity for a win in Big Ten duals this year; pity he missed this opportunity because of a slow start and the inability to get out from under a leg rider. Decision for Rutgers, team score 14-4.

            GOOD COMMENTATING TEAM FROM RUTGERS. My bad for picking on them. They have two wrestlers who know what they're talking about, and they're very familiar with the Rutgers team and adequately informed about the ILLINI. For example, they knew that Dylan Duncan wasn't in the lineup tonight. They also pointed out that both Braunagels were All Americans during the Covid-shortened season. I especially applaud them on their impartiality. Example: Two different double leg takedowns going out of bounds, one with Rutgers on offense, and one with an ILLINI on offense. The commentators watched replays for both and agreed with the call for the takedown by the ILLINI--it was a good call--and agreed that the Rutgers attempt was not a takedown--another good call.

            DANNY BRAUNAGEL. 165. He's got Andrew Clark, a guy that Brawny majored 13-0 earlier this season. Clark shoots, but Braunagel fights off and reattacks with a double. Takedown. The ILLINI rides out the end of the first period. 2-0 good guys. Start neutral in second and Brawny gets a single for the takedown. 4-1 after Danny lets him up. The ILLINI with another double for two. 6-1 going into the third. Ends up 9-3.

            DJ SHANNON. 174. Connor O'Neil is 9-7 for Rutgers. Jackson Turley is not in the lineup. Shannon with the quick go-behind, takedown, and looks for the cradle. He gets about a minute of riding time before O'Neill escapes. 2-1. But Shannon with the quick snap-down and go-behind. Another takedown. DJ is looking really good right here. Yes, he's facing a backup, but a backup with 9 wins on the season. DJ on bottom to start second. Shannon does his flip over, but Rutgers follows. Still gets an escape. Riding time still at one minute for the ILLINI. Shannon tries a crazy inside trip, and gets close to trouble, but a late takedown gives Shannon the 7-1 lead with riding time going into the third Shannon again gets into trouble. gives up a takedown, 7-5 win for Shannon. Like Lucas Byrd, Shannon shushes the crowd. Maybe hold off on that after a win against a backup. Haha!

            ZAC BRAUNAGEL. 184. His opponent is John Poznanski, an AA last year. Zac looked like he had him dead to rights, but Poznanski scrambled for the takedown. Came down to the third period with the score at 3-2, and Poznanski scored the takedown for the win, then the ride out. 6-2 win for Rutgers. This was a situation where the wrestlers were pretty evenly matched, but Poznanski was a little stronger than expected, and he was smart enough to put himself in positions where his strength advantage would win out. ILLINI down 10-17 in team score.

            MATT WROBLEWSKI. 197. Wroblewski has the better chances in the first period. He even goes for a bull rush double-leg but doesn't get it. That's until Greg Bulsak dove at an ankle that was just sitting there and got the takedown. The Scarlet Knight rides with both legs in. Wrobocop needs to work on that. Bulsak with the 2-0 and minute riding time lead going into the second. Matt has a massive brace on his knee. That's new to me. Bulsak escapes in second and gets another takedown. Wroblewski goes for the single, but Bulsak scrambles out for a takedown. Bulsak uses his bigger frame and strength advantage to beat on Wrobocop. 9-1 major for Rutgers. It was uglier than that. 21-10 bad guys.

            LUUUUKE LUFFMAN. 285. Boone McDermott is the opponent. The Scarlet Knight gets a takedown off a single. Kudos to the 235-pound mullet-wearing heavyweight from Rutgers. Luffman escapes and later in the first, grabs an ankle for the takedown and rides out to the end of the period. Rutgers on bottom in the second. Luke rides out the second period on top. Luuuke with the escape in the third for a 4-2 lead and riding time. Another takedown for Luke after a desperation shot from McDermott. 7-2 final. Rutgers wins 21-13.

            FINAL THOUGHTS. I was not impressed at all with the seating arrangements for the ILLINI. There seemed to be Rutgers fans sitting right on top of them. Rutgers was pumped up for the match, and, overall, it seemed the ILLINI were too lethargic. Even in matches where the Orange and Blue had the advantage going in, such as at 165 and 174 and 285, it was the Scarlet Knight who went after takedowns first. Covid and injuries have hurt the team from ILLINOIS, there's no doubt about that, but wrestlers still must press on with fighting spirit. In Sumo, after each basho, there is a special prize given to one of the wrestlers for fighting spirit. The ILLINI needed more of that, and they'll need much more of that against Iowa on Sunday.


            • #7
              That was an ugly meet. The gap between us and Iowa has never been wider. Hopefully, Poeta can recruit like a demon and get us closer next year when nearly all of Iowa's starting lineup has graduated. .


              • #8
                Reposted (in part) from

                Recap of the ILLINOIS/Iowa Dual and Mike Carr

                It was a bit of a disastrous weekend for ILLINI wrestling. Not everything went wrong, but there were two team losses, one expected, the other less expected. Yet, the worst news for ILLINOIS wrestling didn't happen on the mat.

                Mike Carr is retired.

                Too many injuries have spoiled what started out as, and what would have been, a brilliant wrestling career. Nobody was sure what to expect from the two-time Pennsylvania state champ with the big brain when he came to ILLINOIS. But he put everybody on notice in his first match--a loss to Missouri's Jaydin Eierman--that he would be a force to be reckoned with.

                I recall Mikey shooting a double on the Tiger wrestler late in the match, picking him up and holding him up in the air like Hercules held up Antaeus in that old Greek story. It was a show of dominance in a losing effort, but I knew right then that he would be an All American.

                And if not for the injuries, he would have been.

                Later that redshirt freshman year, Carr would make it to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, beating future National Champion Nick Lee along the way. In the NCAA Tournament, he made it to the Round of Twelve before losing a two-pointer.

                Last season, in his last match in an ILLINI singlet, the future doctor beat the guy who would go on to finish third at the NCAA Tournament. Good luck to Mike Carr.

                We did learn that Dylan Duncan will soon return to the lineup, so not all the news was bad. And, of course, there was Lucas Byrd.


                THE IOWA DUAL

                JUSTIN CARDANI. The ILLINI grabbed the first takedown with a sweeping single. He reached over and grabbed Ayala's other ankle and was awarded the two. He tried the same takedown in the second and was quick to lift up the leg. Unfortunately, his trip was poorly timed, and they both crumpled to the ground in a stalemate position. After 40 takedown attempts by Cardani, the ref warns Cardani for stalling as the Hawkeye just pushed him out (and even though the ILLINI circled back in).

                In the third period, they're tied up, and you could hear Coach Poeta say, "Throw-by is coming." And it came and led to the winning takedown. That's the kid's best weapon, and Justin needs to look for it. He did a pretty good job staying on the back foot most the match defending it, but that time it cost him.

                It was a loss, but I thought Justin did a better job of converting, and trying to convert, on his single-leg takedowns. When he keeps moving after grabbing the leg, he can convert. When he stops or slows down, his opponent has time to mount a defense.



                • #9
                  What an embarrassing line up the Illini are putting on the mat! I see Poeta getting early signings from the lighter weights but he really needs to secure the top end of his line up. Time to start recruiting over the Braunagels and Wrobolewskis.


                  • #10
                    I agree. I still don't see much of his wrestling influence on this year's team, at least on their feet.