Badgers battle to brink with No. 13 Illinois


MADISON, Wis. – In its tightest dual meet of the season, the Wisconsin wrestling team (1-5, 0-4) traded wins with No. 13 Illinois (11-4, 2-4) through the first six matches but dropped the last four, as the Fighting Illini overtook the Badgers, 21-13, on Sunday at the UW Field House.

“We came out aggressive—more aggressive overall as a team,” head coach Barry Davis said. “There are still things we have to work on but the pace is better, the intensity is a lot higher and we’re getting better on top.

“We’ll move forward, work on individual skills and capitalize on those.”

Thanks to a major decision victory by Johnny Jimenez, Wisconsin got out to its first lead since the season-opener against UW-Whitewater on Nov. 12. The Badgers dominated the in-state dual from start to finish, winning by a score of 43-0.

Logo Wisconsin Badgers 1600x1600

Thumbnail Photo is Courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics

The 125-pounder for UW owned periods one and two, building a 10-1 lead over Francis Edelen with two minutes still left to wrestle.

Jimenez extended his lead to double digits in the final period, finishing off his opponent, 13-3.

In the first of two matches that featured a pair of ranked wrestlers, No. 7 Ryan Taylor battled second-ranked Zane Richards in the 133-pound grapple.

After five minutes on the mat, Richards narrowly led Taylor, 4-3.

Strategically, Taylor chose to start the final period on the bottom and was able to earn an escape to knot the score at four with one minute remaining.

Richards proved his placement in the 133-pound rankings, denying multiple takedown attempts by the Wisconsin wrestler. With Taylor unable to net a score the Fighting Illini prevailed in the match, 5-4, due to nearly two minutes of riding time.

The win gave Richards his 20th win of the season and preserved his unbeaten record. Previously, the Illinois wrestler had won all but one match by three points or more.

Luke Rowh got the Badgers back on track at 141 pounds, as he edged Mousa Jodeh, 4-2.

Despite failing to score in the second period, Rowh did enough damage in the first and third to take the match. An escape put the Hastings, Minnesota, native up, 3-2, 12 seconds into the final period and he played defense the rest of the way to ensure the victory. Rowh earned an additional riding-time point to pad the score.

The lone rematch from last year’s dual against U of I came at 149 pounds between Andrew Crone and Kyle Langenderfer.

Fortunately for the Badgers, the same result—a Crone win by decision—prevailed, as well.

Similar to the 2014-15 matchup, the UW won the match by two points, with this year’s result showing a higher point total.

Crone grabbed the lead with 41 seconds left in the first period and was able to fend of Langenderfer for the rest of the way, earning his ninth win of the campaign by a score of 8-6.

TJ Ruschell had his hands full in the 157-pound match, as he clashed with No. 2 Isaiah Martinez, who had lost just one time (19-1) entering the day.

UW’s competitor fought tough through two periods but Martinez proved to be too much in the third, grabbing his sixth technical-fall win in seven matches and a whopping 15th overall.

In all, 18 of Martinez’s 20 wins have come by technical fall or pin.

Looking to stretch his unbeaten streak to 16-straight matches, third-rated 165-pounder Isaac Jordan was faced with his toughest challenge of the season to date.

No. 6 Steven Rodrigues entered the matchup with an 18-1 record, losing only to Jordan’s cousin and the second-ranked 165-pounder, Bo Jordan of Ohio State.

Most of the match was wrestled in the neutral position, as both competitors looked to earn a tactical advantage.

Jordan picked up takedowns and an escape, while Rodrigues was only able to muster two escapes.

The Urbana, Ohio, product’s 5-2 win was his fourth over a ranked opponent in 2015-16.

With four matches remaining, UW led the dual, 13-12, but three consecutive wins by the Fighting Illini put the Badgers back five points (18-13) with the heavyweight battle still to be decided.

Seth Liegel was shutout, 8-0, by No. 4 Zac Brunson in the 174-pound match before Jeff Koepke defeated Ryan Christensen, 9-3, at 184 pounds.

Eric Peissig was down, 4-2, through two periods in the 197-pound grapple, but was unable to rally against Andre Lee, as he lost by decision, 7-3.

Entering the heavyweight match, Wisconsin needed a technical fall to tie the Fighting Illini or a fall to win the dual outright.

Unfortunately, Brooks Black solidified his team’s win by defeating Brock Horwath, 4-2.

Next up for Wisconsin is a dual at Rutgers on Friday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. The match was previously scheduled for Jan. 22 but was postponed due to poor weather conditions.

125: Jimenez (WIS) wins by MD over Edelen (ILL), 13-3
133: Richards (ILL) wins by Dec. over Taylor (WIS), 5-4
141: Rowh (WIS) wins by Dec. over Jodeh (ILL), 4-2
149: Crone (WIS) wins by Dec. over Langenderfer (ILL), 8-6
157: Martinez (ILL) wins by TF over Ruschell (WIS), 16-1
165: Jordan (WIS) wins by Dec. over Rodrigues (ILL), 5-2
174: Brunson (ILL) wins by MD over Liegel (WIS), 8-0
184: Koepke (ILL) wins by Dec. over Christensen (WIS), 9-3
197: Lee (ILL) wins by Dec. over Peissig (WIS), 7-3
Hwt.: Black (ILL) wins by Dec. over Horwath (WIS), 4-2

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