MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 11 University of Minnesota wrestling program (10-2, 3-2 B1G) will look to protect an unblemished home record on Saturday afternoon, as they host No. 17 Illinois (5-4, 3-2 B1G) inside Maturi Pavilion at Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CST.
The dual will be broadcasted live on Big Ten Network with Ray Flores and Tim Johnson on the call. Fans can also follow along to match-by-match updates on Twitter at @GopherWrestling.
The dual will also act as the program’s Senior Day, as the Gophers will honor eight graduates – Jake Bergeland, Michael Blockhus, Michial Foy, Jake Gliva, Keaton Kluever, Jared Krattiger, Bailee O’Reilly, and Marcos Polanco.
Some of Saturday’s honored athletes may choose to use their remaining eligibility at a later date, while fellow Gopher seniors Patrick McKee, Brayton Lee, and Garrett Joles have already shared their intentions to use their final year of eligibility next season.
The “U” is coming off a successful weekend last week, as they went 2-0 with dual wins over Indiana and Purdue. The Gophers won a total of 14 matches last weekend, with Michael Blockhus, Bailee O’Reilly, Isaiah Salazar, and Michial Foy, each winning both of their matches.
Tale of the Tape – The Fighting Illini
After a down year last season, Illinois has gotten themselves right back in the Big Ten mix under second-year head coach Mike Poeta. The Fighting Illini currently hold a 5-4 mark on the year, with three conference wins over Wisconsin, Purdue, and Maryland.
The Illinois lineup houses a total of seven ranked wrestlers, led by two-time NCAA All-American Lucas Byrd at 133 pounds. The Illini have also enjoyed solid seasons from Danny and Zac Braunagel, as well as incoming transfer Edmond Ruth, who comes into the weekend on a 20-match win streak.
The Series with Illinois
Minnesota holds the all-time series lead over the Illinois Fighting Illini with a record of 35-21-2 in a series that dates back to the 1925-26 season. The Golden Gophers have dominated the series in recent history, winning nine of the last ten contests against the Illini, including each of the last four meetings. The Maroon & Gold did claim the most recent victory against Illinois last season, where they rolled to a 22-12 road victory.
First Meeting: L, 2-18 (1925-26)
Last Meeting: W, 22-12 (2/4/2022)
Longest Win Streak: W11 (Twice; 2/20/1965-2/20/1976 and 2/14/1986-2/6/2004)
Longest Losing Streak: L13 (1925-26 season-2/19/1955)
Current Streak: W4 (2/6/2021)
In early February of the last season, the Gophers traveled to Champaign to earn a 22-12 victory over Illinois. Minnesota claimed six of the ten matches on the night, including each of the last four bouts to overcome a 12-6 deficit. Patrick McKee kicked off the dual at 125 pounds with a 4-0 decision over Justin Cardani, followed up by a 10-4 decision win by Brayton Lee. In the second half, Bailee O’Reilly turned the momentum towards Minnesota with a 12-4 major decision over D.J. Shannon. Isaiah Salazar and Michial Foy each earned decision wins to put the Gophers out front, before Gable Steveson closed out the dual with a pin over Luke Luffman.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup with Illinois will see a loaded slate of matches, as the dual could see as many as 17 ranked wrestlers and seven ranked matchups throughout the dual.
The feature bout of the dual could come at 133 pounds, as No. 15 Aaron Nagao would be slated to compete against a two-time NCAA All-American in No. 10 Lucas Byrd.
2022 All-American Jake Bergeland will look to bounce back at 141 pounds against a top-10 test Danny Pucino.
The first swing match of the dual could come at 157 pounds, as Brayton Lee will toe the line against Illinois’ Michael Carr, who is up two weight classes after being a former multiple-time NCAA qualifier at 141 pounds.
Either Andrew Sparks or Cael Carlson will look for a ranked win at 165 pounds as they are slated to compete against No. 19 Danny Braunagel.
Another highlighted match of the afternoon will come at 174 pounds, as Bailee O’Reilly will look to halt No. 10 Edmond Ruth’s 20-match win streak.
Isaiah Salazar will look for his eleventh win in a row against ranked foe Dylan Connell at 184 pounds.
At 197 pounds, Michial Foy will battle No. 10 Zac Braunagel, as Foy looks for his first top-10 since he defeated South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan last season.
Next weekend, the Gophers will host their home finale next Friday night, as they go to battle with the second-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes at 8:00 p.m. CST live on Big Ten Network.