No. 1 Minnesota Wins Thriller over No. 9 Illinois
Bonus points in a pair of matches before the halftime intermission put the Gophers in position to win Sunday afternoon’s dual, but an extraordinary comeback by No. 1 Chris Dardanes in his bout at 133 proved essential in top-ranked Minnesota holding off a late charge from No. 9 Illinois to win, 20-19. The win keeps Minnesota undefeated this season, now 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big Ten. With the win, the Gophers have now won 28 of their last 29 duals, including their last 16.
Dardanes found himself trailing No. 5 Zane Richards, 7-1, heading to the third period of their match, and still trailed by five with slightly more than a minute left on the clock. From there, Dardanes scored four takedowns in the span of approximately one minute, scoring the last in the period’s waning seconds to tie the bout at 10-10 and force sudden victory overtime. In the extra period, it took Dardanes just 39 seconds to secure another takedown and win the match, flipping what looked like three points for Illinois to three points for Minnesota. With each takedown, Dardanes added fuel to the enthusiasm of a season-best crowd of 4,353 at the Sports Pavilion, enthusiasm that culminated with thunderous cheers at the official’s signal of the match-tying takedown late in the third and the match-clinching takedown in overtime.
While Dardanes’ match may have stolen the show, plenty of action took place before that bout, which was the seventh of the day. The dual began at 165 with a 12-1 major decision by No. 8 Jackson Morse over No. 17 Nick Wanzek. The Gophers took control of the meet after that opening match, sweeping the next four heading into the intermission. No. 3 Logan Storley started the Minnesota run with a 7-3 decision over No. 6 Zac Brunson at 174 in the first of two matches on the day between top-six wrestlers (the other being the Dardanes/Richards match). At 184, No. 11 Brett Pfarr picked up his fifth victory over a ranked wrestler this season when he defeated No. 20 Nikko Reyes, 6-2. That victory put Minnesota ahead for the first time in the dual, an advantage Minnesota would keep for the remainder of the day.
At 197, No. 1 Scott Schiller scored a major decision over Jeff Koepke, 14-4, and No. 12 Michael Kroells followed with a 9-1 major decision over Brooks Black at 285. Those victories each provided a critical bonus point for the Gophers, who carried a 14-4 lead in the dual into the break.
After the intermission, Dominic Olivieri earned the Illini’s second victory of the meet, scoring a 13-4 major decision over Jordan Bremer. Dardanes followed at 133 with his incredible comeback victory before his twin brother, No. 4 Nick Dardanes, gave the Gophers their largest lead of dual by earning a 9-4 decision over No. 13 Steven Rodrigues.
Trailing by 12 points with two matches remaining, the Illini staged an aggressive comeback attempt. First, at 149, Kyle Langenderfer pinned Seth Lange in the first period of their contest to halve the Illinois deficit and bring the Illini within six of the Gophers. In the final match of the meet, No. 5 Isaiah Martinez worked relentlessly trying to pin Brad Dolezal, but settled for a 19-4 tech fall in the second period, leaving the Illini comeback one point short and sealing the 20-19 victory for the Gophers.
Minnesota heads east for the second time this season for its next contest, a date with the four-time defending national champions, No. 6 Penn State, in State College next Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. The dual will be streamed live on BTN Plus, which requires a subscription. Updates will provided throughout the dual on the Gopher Wrestling Twitter feed and a full recap will be shared on GopherSports.com following the event’s conclusion.
#1 Minnesota 20, #9 Illinois 19
165: No. 8 Jackson Morse (Ill) maj. dec. No. 17 Nick Wanzek (Minn), 12-1 / Minnesota 0 – Illinois 4
174: No. 3 Logan Storley (Minn) dec. No. 6 Zac Brunson (Ill), 7-3 / Minnesota 3 – Illinois 4
184: No. 11 Brett Pfarr (Minn.) dec. No. 20 Nikko Reyes (Ill), 6-2 / Minnesota 6 – Illinois 4
197: No. 1 Scott Schiller (Minn) maj. dec. Jeff Koepke (Ill), 14-4 / Minnesota 10 – Illinois 4
285: No. 12 Michael Kroells (Minn) maj. dec. Brooks Black (Ill), 9-1 / Minnesota 14 – Illinois 4
125: Dominic Olivieri (Ill) maj. dec. Jordan Bremer (Minn), 13-4 / Minnesota 14 – Illinois 8
133: No. 1 Chris Dardanes (Minn) dec. (SV-1) No. 5 Zane Richards (Ill), 12-10 / Minnesota 17 – Illinois 8
141: No. 4 Nick Dardanes (Minn) dec. No. 13 Steven Rodrigues (Ill), 9-4 / Minnesota 20 – Illinois 8
149: Kyle Langenderfer (Ill) fall (0:51) Seth Lange (Minn) / Minnesota 20 – Illinois 14
157: No. 5 Isaiah Martinez (Ill) tech fall (3:10) Brad Dolezal (Minn), 19-4 / Minnesota 20 – Illinois 19