The NCAA Division I Wrrestling Championships just wrapped up in Madison Square Garden with Illinois tying Michigan for 9th place with 50.5 team points. Penn State ran away with their fifth team title in six years on the strength of five national finalists. Coach Jim Heffernan guided the Illini to the top 10 for the 3rd time in his 7 years at the helm of Illinois Fighting Illini Wrestling.
Notably, every other team in the top 10 had more than Illinois' six qualified wrestlers, with only Michigan having fewer than 8. Every Illini wrestler at the tournament won at least two matches over the course of it, with five of the six advancing in the opening round of their respective championship brackets.
Redshirt senior Jeff Koepke (184lb) was unseeded and lost his opening match, but won two bouts in the consolation bracket before being defeated in overtime on Friday to end his Illini career.
Redshirt junior Zac Brunson (174lb) entered the tournament as the #5 seed in his bracket and won his opening match before being upset by Indiana's Nathan Jackson. He won one wrestleback match before narrowly losing a 3-2 decision.
Redshirt sophomore Brooks Black (285lb) pulled off an opening round upset and won again to advance to the quarterfinals, where he was knocked out with a 4-1 decision. He was defeated in his first match in the consolation bracket.
Steven Rodrigues received All-American honors for Illinois after winning the fifth place match in the 165lb weight class. The redshirt senior advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Bo Jordan of Ohio State.
Zane Richards advanced all the way to the 133lb semifinals to secure All-American honors before losing to eventual runner-up Cory Clark on a late takedown. The redshirt junior could not overcome last year's champion Cody Brewer in the 3rd place match this morning.
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Martinez fought his way through the 157lb bracket to set up a highly-anticipated third match against Penn State's Jason Nolf tonight. In one of the most exciting matches of the championship round, Martinez broke a 4-4 tie with a takedown in the last 20 seconds to win his second straight national championship.
"Imar" now has a 67-1 record, and has twice avenged his only loss (earlier this season to Nolf). This is the fourth consecutive year in which Illinois has brought home an individual national championship. Martinez won last year in the 157lb class and Jesse Delgado won back to back titles at 125lb in 2013 and 2014.
Was there some other NCAA tournament going on this weekend without Illinois? I didn't notice...