Minnesota would trail by as much as 9-2 through the first three matches, but a Rylee Streifel comeback victory in the heavyweight match swung the momentum back to the Gophers who won four of the next five matches.
“It was great today. I thought the fight was there from our guys today,” head coach Brandon Eggum said after the dual. “It was a tough weekend of travel for us, and it could have been an excuse for some, but the guys were upbeat and they worked hard to earn this victory.”
The dual began at 174-pounds with senior Chris Pfarr. The senior bounced back after his loss at Ohio State with a 10-4 decision over David Riojas. Pfarr fell behind in the first, but wasted no time making it up, reversing Riojas to tie the match at the end of the first.
Pfarr would escape to begin the second, and scored his first takedown, giving him a 5-2 lead. Pfarr would look to push the pace in the third period, looking for bonus points, but came up just short but still claiming the first bout of the night for the Maroon and Gold.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Anderson stepped onto the mat at 184-pounds for the Gophers, with a big matchup against No. 6 Emery Parker. Anderson was able to take a lead on Parker with a takedown early, but Parker escaped and tied the match at three with his first takedown just a short time later.
Anderson would obtain another lead with an escape, then a second takedown, giving him a 6-4 lead after Parker’s escape in the second. Parker was able to earn two more takedowns just before the end of the second period, and took an 8-7 lead into the final period.
Parker was able to finish the match with a reversal, a takedown and a two-point near fall, but Anderson was able to keep it at a decision, 15-7, tying the team score at three after two matches.
After an injury sustained at 197-pounds, and Minnesota receiving a point deducted by the head referee, the Gophers trailed 9-2 to No. 12 Illinois.
Rylee Streifel seized the moment, and brought momentum back to the Gophers with his performance in the heavyweight match.
Down 4-2, with a takedown and reversal in the scorebook for Duece Rachal, Streifel escaped making the score 4-3 with just over 35-seconds left in the match.
Streifel fought through a sprawl from Rachal, and grabbed a hold of both legs and proceeded to drive Rachal back and straight to his back. Streifel then obtained four-points on the near fall, and time ran out with a 9-4 decision in favor of the sophomore.
“That was a big win at heavyweight today,” Eggum said. “That was great effort on Streifel’s part to continue to drive and get that takedown. It made a huge impact on us winning this dual.”
“Rylee’s match was probably the turning point,” junior wrestler Steve Bleise said after the dual. “He just ran right through that double leg and caught him on his back, that was huge and got everyone of the bench fired up and I think that was one of the biggest things that dictated the outcome of this dual.”
“It was a great feeling to get that win today, I was so excited to get momentum back for our guys” Rylee Streifel said. “I love watching Chris Pfarr wrestle before me because he has so much heart, it makes you want to go out there and wrestle hard and I was thinking about that late in that match.”
With the crowd behind the Gophers, No. 4 Ethan Lizak stepped into the circle with his second straight ranked opponent, No. 18 Travis Piotrowski. Lizak grabbed a hold of Piotrowski late in the first to earn a 2-0 lead heading into the second.
Lizak would turn Piotrowski in the second, and used a riding time point to obtain the 7-0, ranked victory. Lizak leads the team in ranked victories this season with five.
After a quick intermission, Steve Polakowski moved up to 133-pounds despite weighting in at 125-pounds, but Dylan Duncan was able to pick up the victory for Illinois by decision, 6-2.
Despite the loss, the swing was in full effect for the Gophers. No. 11 Tommy Thorn took the mat and earned an 11-6 decision over Mike Carr using nearly every score option in the book. Thorn finished the match with a takedown, a reversal, a four-point near fall, a riding time point and an escape to earn his fifth straight victory. Minnesota just trailed 12-11 after Thorn’s win.
Making his Minnesota Golden Gophers debut was redshirt junior, Steve Bleise, who came in with a No. 15 ranking. Bleise took the mat against Eric Barone, a 2017 NCAA qualifier, and paced his way to a 4-1 decision and the Gophers first lead since Pfarr’s decision in the first match.
“It felt pretty good to just get back with the team and get out there in front of the home crowd,” Bleise said after the dual. “I didn’t quite get to my offense as much as I would have liked, but I just found a way to get the job done.”
“That was great to see him finally hit the mat here for us at home,” Eggum said. “No doubt we can clean some things up, but I’m sure coming out here for the first time was a lot for him and I thought he handled it really well and he seemed relaxed and focused. He did his part in helping us secure this win.”
With the team score tight, the Gophers turned to senior, and captain, Jake Short at 157-pounds to help inch the team closer to another Big Ten dual victory.
Short and Kyle Langenderfer, a NCAA qualifier in 2017, were scoreless after one period. Stalling was called on Langenderfer, giving Short the first point of the match in the second. Langenderfer and Short would eventually head to the final period tied after the Illinois escape. In the final period, Short managed to escape and had a 2-1 lead with 1:38 to go in the match.
Another stall call was called, and Short capitalized by earning the first takedown of the match with 30-seconds remaining, giving him a 6-1 decision by the time the bell rang out in Maturi Pavilion.
As the match concluded, the Illini were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting the team score at 17-11, sealing the victory for the Gophers no matter the result at 165 due to criteria.
Nick Wanzek took the mat in the highest ranked match of the night against No. 2 Isaiah Martinez, but came up short of the upset with an 8-4 decision.
Minnesota has a week and will remain home for the next six days until they wrestle host to No. 8 Michigan on Jan. 21 at Maturi Pavilion.
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No. 14 Minnesota 17 – No. 12 Illinois 14
174: Chris Pfarr dec David Riojas, 10-4 | Minn 3 - ILL 0
184: No. 6 Emery Parker dec Dylan Anderson, 15-9 | Minn 3 - ILL 3
197: Andre Lee med Bobby Steveson (point deduction on MN bench) | Minn 2 - ILL 9
HWT: Rylee Streifel dec Duece Rachal, 9-4 | Minn 5 - ILL 9
125: No. 4 Ethan Lizak dec No. 18 Travis Piotrowski, 7-0 | Minn 8 - ILL 9
133: Dylan Duncan dec Steve Polakowski, 6-2 | Minn 8 - ILL 12
141: No. 11 Tommy Thorn dec Mike Carr, 11-6 | Minn 11 - ILL 12
149: No. 15 Steve Bleise dec Eric Barone, 4-1 | Minn 14 - ILL 12
157: No. 18 Jake Short dec Kyle Langenderfer, 6-1 (point deduction on ILL) | Minn 17 - ILL 11
165: No. 2 Isaiah Martinez dec Nick Wanzek, 8-4 | Minn 17 - ILL 14