Illinois dropped five of its first six matches as the No. 4 Illini fell 22-9 to No. 12 Nebraska on Friday at Huff Hall.
Zane Richards, No. 2-ranked by W.I.N. magazine, was the lone victor for the Illini in those six opening bouts with a 3-2 win over Nebraska's Eric Montoya. The match was scoreless through the first two periods, including a ride out by Montoya. Richards escaped and grabbed a takedown, and held on for the victory.
During the opening six match span, the Huskers won four bouts by decision and one by major decision over backup Chris Lopez, who was in Brooks Black, at heavyweight.
At 141 pounds, Nebraska's No. 12 Anthony Abidin took the Illini's No. 13 Steven Rodrigues down and recorded a three-point near fall at end of the first. Abidin added two more points in the second before Rodrigues scored a pair of takedowns in the third period, but it wasn't enough to overcome the early lead as Abidin earned a 10-4 decision.
Justin Arthur followed Abidin's playbook with a takedown and a near fall to open the match, 4-0, against Kyle Langenderfer at 149. Langenderfer returned the favor in the second, but still trailed by one with an Abidin escape. A late takedown by Abidin secured three more points for the Huskers.
The match of the meet featured the Illini's No. 3 Isaiah Martinez against the Huskers' No. 4 James Green, a 3-time All-American, at 157. Martinez pushed the pace in his normal offensive style, but was held scoreless after the first. Green was called for stalling in the second and Martinez escaped from the bottom position for a 1-0 lead heading into the final period. Martinez rode Green out for a 2-0 decision.
Martinez is now 21-0 on the season, he is the first Illini with 20 or more consecutive wins since Mike Poeta in 2007-08. Poeta started the season 22-0 before suffering his first loss.
Eighth-ranked Jackson Morse pulled in the first period takedown on Austin Wilson and held him off for a 2-1 decision at 165 pounds. Morse's win cut the deficit to 16-9.
Top-ranked Robert Kokesh took No. 8 Zac Brunson down in the opening period, but Brunson rallied in the second to tie it 3-3. Kokesh got a reversal for a 5-3 win and clinch the meet for the Huskers.
Nikko Reyes, No. 15, and No. 17 TJ Dudley exchanged takedowns in the first as Reyes trailed 3-2 following a Dudley escape. Reyes darted out from bottom to tie it 3-3 heading into the third. Dudley took down Reyes, and riding time gave the Husker a 6-3 victory to close the meet.
"Frankly, Northwestern is just like Nebraska," Illinois coach Jim Heffernan said in a post-meet interview with FightingIllini.com. "They are good. They match up well with us. At the end of the day it's not about the other team. It's about us. We need to do better, and that's the bottom line."
The Illini travel to Evanston for a conference dual against in-state rival Northwestern, ranked No. 10 by W.I.N., on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
197: Aaron Studebacker (NEB) dec. Jeff Koepke (ILL), 4-3, 0-3
285: No. 17 Collin Jansen (NEB) major dec. Chris Lopez (ILL), 8-0, 0-7
125: No. 10 Tim Lambert (NEB) dec. Dominic Olivieri (ILL), 5-0, 0-10
133: No. 2 Zane Richards (ILL) dec. Eric Montoya (NEB), 3-2, 3-10
141: No. 12 Anthony Abidin (NEB) dec. No. 13 Steven Rodrigues (ILL), 10-4, 3-13
149: Justin Arthur (NEB) dec. Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 8-4, 3-16
157: No. 3 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) dec. No. 4 James Green (NEB), 2-0, 6-16
165: No. 8 Jackson Morse (ILL) dec. Austin Wilson (NEB), 2-1, 9-16
174: No. 1 Robert Kokesh (NEB) dec. No. 8 Zach Brunson (ILL), 5-3, 9-19
184: No. 17 TJ Dudley (NEB) dec. No. 15 Nikko Reyes (ILL), 6-3, 9-22