Gopher Comeback Defeats Illini, 17-14

By University of Illinois Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Illinois wrestling had their two-match winning streak snapped on Sunday afternoon, as the 14th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the 12th-ranked Fighting Illini, 17-14. Minnesota won six of the ten matches, as the Gophers improve to 2-1 in the Big Ten, 5-2 overall, while the Illini drop to 2-2 in conference, and 3-3 overall.

“We made some really poor decisions and lacked fight in some matches today,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “Disappointing to say this, but we weren’t very tough today.”

After trailing 3-0 following the opening match at 174 pounds, the Orange and Blue maintained the lead up until the eighth match of the afternoon when No. 15 Steve Bleise (Minnesota) defeated Eric Barone at 149 pounds to give Minnesota the lead. The Gophers added three more points at 157 pounds to clinch the match before Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez finished the match with a win by decision at 165 pounds.

Despite the match being decided due to Minnesota leading by six points, and having clinched the first criteria advantage with six bouts won, second-ranked Isaiah Martinez ended the match on a high note for the Illini with a victory over No. 9 Nick Wanzek. Two familiar foes, meeting last year at both NCAA Championships in March and at U.S. Last Chance Trials in May, Martinez won for the third straight time. Martinez tallied three takedowns in the match, all coming in the first period, and held Wanzek from scoring one of his own in an 8-4 decision.

With the win, the first over a ranked opponent this season, Martinez improves to 6-0 on the season. Wanzek is the first wrestler in six tries to go a full seven minutes with the three-time Big Ten champion, as Martinez had won his first five matches by either tech fall or pin. The win also moves Martinez into sole possession of 23rd place on Illinois’ all-time win list with 104 career victories.

Also getting their hand raised on Sunday inside Maturi Pavillion was No. 6 Emery Parker (184), Andre Lee (197) and Dylan Duncan (133).

The sixth-ranked 184-pounder had to battle back on Sunday after Minnesota’s Dylan Anderson scored two takedowns early in the match to put Parker in a 6-3 deficit. After an escape to cut the Anderson lead to two, 6-4, Parker took control of the match with a pair of takedowns late in the second frame to hold an 8-7 advantage entering the final two minutes. Starting on bottom in the third, Parker added six more points to his total, first with a reversal and two back points, and then his fourth takedown of the day. A riding-time point finalized the 15-9 decision, giving Parker (14-1) his ninth straight victory.

With the match tied 3-3 after Parker’s decision, the Illini got their biggest boost of the day with a a third-period injury default at 197 pounds. Behind four takedowns and two back points, Andre Lee routed Robert Steveson to a tune of 15-2 before Steveson injury defaulted with 1:14 left in the third period. The 15 points scored is the most for Lee this season.

After two straight Minnesota decisions cut the Illinois lead to 9-8, Duncan got the Illini back in the win column at 133 pounds. Paced by a takedown in both the first and second periods, Duncan built a 5-0 advantage through five minutes of action and held on for a 6-2 decision.

Leading 12-8 with four matches to go, Minnesota won the next three matches by decision, a 9-0 run by No. 11 Tommy Thorn, No. 15 Steve Bleise and No. 18 Jake Short, to enter the 165-pound bout with the victory clinched.

Despite the loss to the ranked Gopher at 141 pounds, redshirt freshman Mike Carr put up an aggressive third period that kept Minnesota from tying the match, 12-12. Trailing 8-0 to Thorn after five minutes, Carr came out hard in the third frame, surprising Thorn with a shot five seconds into the frame. Behind three takedowns in the two-minute final period, Carr denied Minnesota the bonus points, keeping the Illini in the lead.

With tempers flaring a couple times on both sides, both Minnesota and Illinois had a point deducted during the match. A point was taken from the Minnesota team score due to the bench after the 197-pound bout, while Illinois’ was assessed on Kyle Langenderfer after the 157-pound match.

The Illini will again have a full week to prepare for its next opponent, as the Orange and Blue aren’t back in action until next Sunday, January 21, when the Illini battle No. 24 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana at 12 p.m. central time.

For complete coverage of Fighting Illini wrestling, go to and follow @IlliniWrestling on Twitter and Instagram.

Illini Notes:

  • Isaiah Martinez’s win over No. 9 Nick Wanzek marked the 104th of his career, breaking a tie with former Illini Griff Powell. Martinez is now on one win away from tying a trio of former Illini – Kevin Puebla, Mike Poeta and John Dergo – for 20th place all-time.
  • Martinez’s win over the ninth-ranked Wanzek was also his first over a ranked opponent this season
  • Emery Parker won his ninth straight match, a 14-9 decision against Dylan Anderson
  • Andre Lee set a season-high for points in a match, scoring 14 points before winning by injury default.

#12 Illinois 14, #14 Minnesota 17
174: Chris Pfarr (MINN) dec. David Riojas (ILL), 10-4 ILL 0, MINN 3
184: #6 Emery Parker (ILL) dec. Dylan Anderson (MINN), 15-9 ILL 3, MINN 3
Team point deducted on Minnesota bench ILL 3, MINN 2
197: Andre Lee (ILL) inj. default Bobby Steveson (MINN), 5:46 ILL 9, MINN 2
HWT: Rylee Streifel (MINN) dec. Deuce Rachal (ILL), 9-4 ILL 9, MINN 5
125: #4 Ethan Lizak (MINN) dec. #18 Travis Piotrowski (ILL), 7-0 ILL 9, MINN 8
133: Dylan Duncan (ILL) dec. Steve Polakowski (MINN), 6-2 ILL 12, MINN 8
141: #11 Tommy Thorn (MINN) dec. #18 Mike Carr (ILL), 11-6 ILL 12, MINN 11
149: #15 Steve Bleise (MINN) dec. Eric Barone (ILL), 4-2 ILL 12, MINN 14
157: #18 Jake Short (MINN) dec. Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 6-1 ILL 12, MINN 17
Team point deducted on Illinois’ Kyle Langenderfer ILL 11, MINN 17
165: #2 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) dec. #9 Nick Wanzek (MINN), 8-4 ILL 14, MINN 17

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Written by Mike Bare

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