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Martinez, Richards lead charge as 4 Illinois wrestlers advance to NCAA quarterfinals

Here’s a recap of what happened during the first day of action in St. Louis.

The first two sessions of the NCAA Wrestling Championships are complete and the Illinois Fighting Illini currently sit tied for 12th in the team championship standings.

Four wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals yesterday, including Isaiah Martinez, whose 8-5 decision over Minnesota’s Nicholas Wanzek set up a bout with Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers. He’s just three victories away from his third national title.

In the 184lb weight class, Emery Parker knocked off defending champion Myles Martin of Ohio State in his second round matchup, nearly ending the contest with this move:

Parker will have his work cut out for him in the quarterfinals as he tries to hand Iowa’s Sammy Brooks only his third loss of the year.

At 133lb, Zane Richards also has some work to do in his bizarre path to the title. His first victory was by medical forfeit, and his second seemed to be an 8-6 victory over Lehigh’s Scotty Parker with a takedown at the buzzer until Lehigh won a video challenge, forcing a sudden victory period in which Parker was assessed a stalling penalty that handed the victory to Richards. Awaiting him in the quarterfinals is Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, the 2015 NCAA champion at 125lb and last year’s 3rd-place finisher in the same class. In his first year at 133lb, he’s racked up a 21-0 record. Here’s hoping Richards can defile the donut in his loss column.

Zac Brunson of the 174lb class rounds out the quarterfinalists for the Orange and Blue. He crushed Purdue’s Jacob Morrisey in the opening round and scored a 6-2 decision against upstart Jake Residori out of SIUE. He’ll take on Cornell senior Brian Realbuto, who wrestleheads might remember as Isaiah Martinez’ final opponent in his freshman year at 157lb. The two-time All-American is looking for his first title and at 25-1 will be a major obstacle for Brunson to overcome.

Two more Illini wrestlers remain alive in the consolation brackets. After scoring an upset of Rutgers’ John Van Brill, Kyle Langenderfer (157lb) lost an 11-7 decision to 4th-seeded Tyler Berger of Nebraska. Travis Piotrowski at the 125lb class took a 16-1 technical fall against Virginia’s Zack Mueller in the first round, but shut out George Mason’s Ibrahim Bunduka 6-0 to advance in the consolation bracket. 149lb wrestler Eric Barone’s tournament is done after he was pinned in his opening match by Justin Oliver out of Central Michigan and eliminated from the consolation bracket by Patricio Lugo of Edinboro.

Despite 125lb contender Nick Suriano pulling out with an injury, Penn State currently sits in first place with 30.5 points, followed by Ohio State with 26.0 and Oklahoma State with 25.5. With six wrestlers still able to gain points, the Fighting Illini will look to improve on the 13.5 points they’ve gathered thus far.

Follow Illini Wrestling on Twitter for more March Matness news. They’ll post links to ESPN’s streaming coverage whenever Illinois wrestlers are due to appear. If you like to see Illinois win at things, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out.