Gophers Drop Big Ten Finale to Illinois
After splitting the night’s 10 matches, bonus points made the difference in the final score
No. 16 Minnesota split its five matches with No. 12 Illinois on Friday night, but three bonus point wins for the Illini secured a 19-16 victory. With Friday night’s loss, Minnesota finishes up its Big Ten season 5-4, while dropping to 9-8 overall.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing from a multitude of positions. The only thing we can do is get ready for Iowa State on Friday and go forward and try to get ready for Big Tens,” said head coach J Robinson when asked about Friday’s defeat. “I think a positive tonight is [Nick] Wanzek. He beat a top kid in the country. He stayed focused and he wrestled exactly the way you need to. It’s a classic example of not having to be ranked to win those matches. You just have to wrestle hard and good things will happen.”
Wanzek’s win near the conclusion of Friday’s dual was the biggest of the night for the Gophers, a 13-10 upset of No. 4 Zac Brunson in their 174-pound bout. Wanzek gave up the match’s first takedown, but reversed Brunson to his back and nearly scored the fall, picking up four points on the near fall. The two battled back and forth for the remainder of the match, but a takedown in the closing seconds and the riding time point gave Wanzek a three-point victory. The win was Wanzek’s first career victory over a top-10 opponent.
Friday’s match began with back-to-back Gopher wins, first at 197 pounds, then at heavyweight. At 197, No. 3 Brett Pfarr reached the 30-win plateau this season with a decision over Emery Parker. With every win, Pfarr is adding to his career-best total.
No. 9 Michael Kroells followed with a major decision over Brooks Black, 8-0. Kroells’ third major decision in his last four victories was the only bonus point win on the night for Minnesota. It also pushed his career record against Black to 4-0.
Illinois responded to Minnesota’s victories at the two heaviest weight classes with a pair of wins at the two lightest classes, flipping a 7-0 deficit into an 8-7 lead. First, Francis Edelen picked up a 7-3 decision at 125 pounds, then No. 2 Zane Richards scored a technical fall, 17-2, at 133 pounds.
The Gophers had an answer for the Illini run, picking up back-to-back wins at 141 and 149 to reclaim the lead. It started with a 6-2 decision for No. 6 Tommy Thorn over Mousa Jodeh in a match Thorn dominated throughout. No. 16 Jake Short followed with an 8-3 decision over Kyle Langenderfer in a tense match that included Langenderfer being penalized a point for unnecessary roughness for blows to Short’s face, then an unsportsmanlike conduct point for his reaction to the call.
Minnesota hit the toughest stretch of the Illinois lineup in the next three matches, surrendering major decisions to No. 2 Isaiah Martinez and No. 6 Steven Rodrigues at 157 and 165, eight points that flipped the lead for the fourth time on the night, giving Illinois a 16-13 advantage heading into a match where they were favored at 174 pounds.
Wanzek’s upset over Brunson leveled the score at 16, the first tie since the dual began. The contest came down to 184 pounds, where Jeff Koepke picked up an 8-4 decision over Chris Pfarr, giving Illinois the decisive three points to take the match, 19-16.
The loss on Friday was just the second for Minnesota in its last six duals. With its 5-4 finish in conference competition, Minnesota is guaranteed to place in the upper-half of the Big Ten for the dual season, though its exact placement won’t be final until the regular season for other teams in the league wraps up on Sunday.
With the Big Ten season now over for the Gophers, Minnesota will welcome a non-conference foe to the Sports Pavilion to wrap up its schedule duals for 2015-16 when they take on Iowa State this Friday night. The dual will begin at 7:30 p.m. Central and will be streamed live on BTN Plus. As always, mat-side updates will be available for every match on Gopher Wrestling Twitter.
Illinois 19 Minnesota 16
197: No. 3 Brett Pfarr (Minn) dec Emery Parker (Ill), 10-5 / Minnesota 3 – Illinois 0
285: No. 9 Michael Kroells (Minn) maj dec Brooks Black (Ill), 8-0 / Minnesota 7 – Illinois 0
125: Francis Edelen (Ill) dec Skyler Petry (Minn), 4-2 / Minnesota 7 – Illinois 3
133: No. 2 Zane Richards (Ill) tech fall Sam Brancale (Minn), 17-2 / Minnesota 7 – Illinois 8
141: No. 6 Tommy Thorn (Minn) dec Mousa Jodeh (Ill), 6-2 / Minnesota 10 – Illinois 8
149: No. 16 Jake Short (Minn) dec Kyle Langenderfer (Ill), 8-3 / Minnesota 13 – Illinois 8
157: No. 2 Isaiah Martinez (Ill) maj dec Brandon Kingsley (Minn), 15-6 / Minnesota 13 – Illinois 12
165: No. 6 Steven Rodrigues (Ill) maj dec Brandon Krone (Minn), 21-8 / Minnesota 13 – Illinois 16
174: Nick Wanzek (Minn) dec No. 4 Zac Brunson (Ill), 13-10 / Minnesota 16 – Illinois 16
184: Jeff Koepke (Ill) dec Chris Pfarr (Minn), 8-4 / Minnesota 16 – Illinois 19