Day 1 of the NCAA Wrestling Championships are in the books and the Fighting Illini sit in 23rd place. This is a far cry from the past six years, which have seen them finish between 7th and 12th by tournament’s end. However, it’s not that surprising given that only 5 Illini qualified and some bad matchups were drawn for them.
At 125 pounds, Travis Piotrowski was pinned by Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State in 1:47. Piccininni moved to 24-3 on the year and went on to win his second round match. He’ll now face Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who has won both his matches in 18-0 tech falls, this morning. Piotrowski was bumped to the consolation bracket.
133 lb man Dylan Duncan fared better, but only slightly. He was thoroughly overpowered by Ok State’s Kaid Brock in a 7-4 decision that Brock dominated from start to finish and was not as close as the score indicates. I’m expecting Brock to go to at least the semifinals.
Michael Carr finally got the Illini on the board in the 141 lb class with an 8-1 decision over SDSU’s Henry Pohlmeyer that he was in full control of the whole time.
Undefeated Isaiah Martinez provided some fireworks at 165 lb, utterly annihilating Zachary Carson of Eastern Michigan in a 20-5 tech fall. He scored a pair of 4-point near falls in a 14 point first period:
The 184 lb match was infuriating, as Emery Parker, whose name nobody seems to know how to spell, took on UNC’s Chip Ness. Towards the end of the first period, a very lengthy review resulted in Parker’s second takedown being waved off. Still leading 2-1 after the questionable call, Parker allowed an escape early in the 2nd period but regained the lead with an escape of his own in the third. Ness completed a takedown with 55 seconds left that gave him a 4-3 lead, and Parker’s escape attempts were overpowered until he managed to seize a leg and turn the corner on Ness just as time was expiring. In my view, this should have been scored as a reversal, and Coach Hef immediately called for a challenge, but it was not awarded and Parker was bounced, leaving only two Illini in the championship brackets after one session
In the Thursday evening session, Piotrowski began his run to 125 lb third place with a 9-1 major decision over Gage Curry of American U. This morning, he will face 5 seed Sean Fausz of NC State, who was upset by 12 seed Louie Hayes from UVA.
Duncan ended up with a Land of Lincoln Trophy match in the 133 lb consolation bracket, where he dropped a 7-5 decision to Northwestern’s Colin Valdiviez. Duncan finished his freshman campaign with a 20-9 record.
As predicted, 141 lb Carr faced off against defending champion Dean Heil in the third Illinois-Ok State match of the tournament. A valiant effort fell short as Carr was unable to score any offensive points and dropped a 6-2 decision. This morning, he’ll face Virginia Tech’s Brent Moore in the consolation bracket.
Parker dominated Chaz Polson of Wyoming in the 184 lb wrestlebacks in a 17-3 major decision that had to feel triumphant after such a frustrating first round loss. He wrestles the 8 seed Drew Foster from UNI this morning.
Finally, IMar won a 10-5 decision over Cornell’s Jonathon Chavez to advance to the quarterfinals. Martinez didn’t look especially strong in the top position and didn’t accumulate much riding time, but he remains a force of nature in the neutral position and was definitely the aggressor all match. He’ll face 42-2 Chance Marsteller from Lock Haven in the quarterfinals this morning.
Currently, Ohio State leads the tournament with 36 points. Defending champ Penn State trails with 28.5 while Iowa lurks in third with 27.