The recent struggles continued for Nebraska wrestling as the squad dropped its Big Ten opener against No. 12 Illinois Friday night at Huff Hall in Champaign, Illinois.
With the team score tied at 17-17 after all 10 matches, the Fighting Illini (2-2, 1-1) edged the Huskers (2-3, 0-1) by criteria (total points scored), 51-49.
The loss is the third straight for No. 20 Nebraska, which opened the year 2-0.
Illinois won the first two matches of the dual, which started at 133 pounds, to take an early 6-0 lead.
In a matchup between two redshirt freshmen at 141 pounds, unranked Mike Carr of Illinois upset Chad Red Jr. of Nebraska, ranked No. 8 in the InterMat rankings, by decision 6-3. Carr never trailed in the match.
Red Jr., a highly touted recruit in his class, has now lost four of his last six matches after starting the year winning nine of 10.
Despite its slow start, Nebraska quickly took the lead in the team score with back-to-back major decisions from its veteran wrestlers at 149 and 157 pounds.
Eighth ranked Colton McCrystal, a returning NCAA qualifier, earned an 8-0 shutout victory against sophomore Eric Barone. McCrystal scored a four-point near fall in the third period to pick up the extra team point.
Nebraska junior and returning NCAA All-American Tyler Berger, ranked ninth in his weight class, defeated senior Kyle Langenderfer, a two-time NCAA qualifier, of Illinois, 11-2. Berger’s victory ended a personal three-match losing streak dating back to his third-place match of the Cliff Keen Invitational on Dec. 2.
The Huskers’ lead in the team score was short-lived as two-time NCAA Champion and three-time Big Ten Champion Isaiah Martinez, ranked No. 2 at 165 pounds, piled on the points defeating redshirt freshman Johnny Blankenship of Nebraska by technical fall in the first period, 18-2.
At the halftime intermission, Illinois led 11-8 in the team score.
The two teams split the next two matches after the break. Nebraska’s redshirt freshman Beau Breske earned a 4-2 decision against David Riojas at 174 pounds and at 184 pounds, No. 12 Emery Parker, fresh off a first-place finish at the Midlands tournament, knocked off No. 6 Taylor Venz of Nebraska by decision 9-7.
Venz had a 6-1 lead at the start of the third period after getting a four-point near fall in the final seconds of the second period. However, Parker stormed back in the final period with a takedown and two near falls of his own.
Parker was the eighth straight ranked wrestler Venz had faced dating back to the third round of the Cliff Keen Invitational on Dec. 1.Venz is 5-3 in that stretch.
Trailing 14-11 with three matches left, Nebraska regained the lead, 17-14, by winning the next two.
In the final match of the night, Illinois Travis Piotrowski, ranked No. 15 at 125 pounds, halted the Huskers’ chances at a victory by holding off Nebraska senior Mitchell Maginnis to win by decision 4-2.
That two-point difference was the winning factor in criteria for Illinois.
The Fighting Illini’s dual victory Friday night was their first in five matchups against Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten Conference in 2011.
Nebraska will attempt to stop their losing skid in a dual against unranked Maryland Sunday ay 2 p.m. at the Devaney Center.
133: #20 Dylan Duncan (ILL) dec. Brian Peska (NEB), 6-1 (ILL 3, NEB 0)
141: Mike Carr (ILL) dec. #8 Chad Red Jr. (NEB), 6-3 (ILL 6, NEB 0)
149: #8 Colton McCrystal (NEB) major dec. Eric Barone (ILL), 8-0 (ILL 6, NEB 4)
157: #9 Tyler Berger (NEB) major dec. #13 Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 11-2 (NEB 8, ILL 6)
165: #2 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) tech. fall Johnny Blankenship (NEB), 18-2 (ILL 11, NEB 8)
174: Beau Breske (NEB) dec. David Riojas (ILL), 4-2 (NEB 11, ILL 11)
184: #12 Emery Parker (ILL) dec. #6 Taylor Venz (NEB), 9-7 (ILL 14, NEB 11)
197: Eric Schultz (NEB) sv-2 Andre Lee (ILL), 4-2 (NEB 14, ILL 14)
HWT: David Jensen (NEB) dec. Duece Rachal (ILL), 7-2 (NEB 17, ILL 14)
125: #15 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) dec. Mitchell Maginnis (NEB), 4-2 (ILL 17, NEB 17)
Note: Illinois won by criteria 3.15.3 (total match points, 51-49) (ILL 18, NEB 17)