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The Iowa Hawkeyes opened Big Ten Dual action in thrilling fashion against Illinois this Friday night. The team score came down to the final bout, with the Hawkeyes needing a pin from junior Sam Stoll to take the victory over their border rival. After a pretty slow night offensively for the Hawkeyes, Stoll was able to come out and score a first period fall on the way to the Hawkeyes 18-17 team victory.

Things started out pretty bad for Iowa, with the Illini taking the first three bouts and picking up a 9-0 lead in the team score. #13 Travis Piotrowski, #20 Dylan Duncan, and Mike Carr all earned decisions at 125, 133, and 141 pounds respectively to put Iowa in jeopardy of losing their first conference dual opener in the Tom Brands era.

“We were struggling a bit offensively and it doesn’t take a great wrestling mind to say that or have that as you are going to analyze this team tonight.” Tom Brands said after the dual, “We knew this was going to be a season like this and because of the personnel we are putting in our lineup. You’re giving up nine first period takedowns and you are getting one. You are going to struggle.”

Struggle indeed. Iowa scored just two takedowns in the first three matches, and four in the first five. The only real upset in those first three bouts was #20 Duncan taking out Hawkeye senior #18 Phil Laux, though Duncan won the pair’s only other meeting earlier in their careers.

Iowa got on the board for the first time when they notched back-to-back 4-1 decisions at 149 and 157 by Brandon Sorensen and Michael Kemerer. That cut Illinois lead to 9-6 at the break.

Of all the matches coming into the dual most knew that Iowa lowest chance of winning was at 165 pounds, where Illinois featured three-time NCAA finalist Isaiah Martinez. Despite several solid offensive attempts by redshirt freshman Kaleb Young, Martinez picked up a bonus point victory 23-8 to push his team’s lead to 14-6.

Iowa and Illinois traded decisions at 174 and 184 pounds with sophomore Joey Gunther winning for Iowa 6-1 and #12 Emery Parker defeating Mitch Bowman 3-5.

That left the Hawkeyes in a eight point hole with two matches left meaning most likely one of Cash Wilcke or Sam Stoll would need to score a fall. Wilcke managed a 3-1 decision at 197 pounds to set Stoll up to be the hero. After the dual Wilcke said in an interview that Andre Lee is known for his double leg attack and that he probably gave that threat a little too much respect. With the match tied 1-1 in sudden victory Wilcke went to his offense and hit a duck under to keep Iowa’s chances alive.

And then there was Stoll. With his team needing a fall it was pretty obvious what the Hawkeye’s gameplan would be. The only way Iowa was walking out of Carver with a win was if there big man pinned Illinois and rather than shut it down Deuce Rachal took the opposite tack and tried to throw Stoll. A move that surprised the Iowa heavyweight.

“I think the guy kind of put himself to his back and it probably wasn’t the brightest thing.” Stoll said in his interview after the dual, “I think its pretty well known I am good in the body lock. I guess I am a little dumbfounded. I thought he would at least make me work.”

After the dual the head Hawkeye was still critical of his team’s performance coming right out and saying his feeling on the dual result would have been the same in victory or loss.

“They wrestled strategy matches all the way up their lineup. Holding points, getting first period takedowns, and riding hard..I’d be talking the same way if we didn’t come out on top as a team. It was five to five (matches), we won on bonus points and if Stoll wins a decision there they beat us on bonus points.”

Up next for Iowa will be a two dual road trip to the east coast where they will wrestle at Rutgers in New Jersey on Friday, and at Maryland on Sunday.

#7 IOWA 18, #15 ILLINOIS 17
125 — #13 Travis Piotrowski (ILL) dec. Justin Stickley (IA) #13Travis Piotrowski (ILL), 7-4; 0-3
133 — #20 Dylan Duncan (ILL) dec. Phillip Laux (IA), 6-1; 0-6
141 — Mike Carr (ILL) dec. Vince Turk (IA), 7-5; 0-9
149 — #2 Brandon Sorensen (IA) dec. #20 Eric Batone (ILL), 4-1; 3-9
157 — #3 Michael Kemerer (IA) #17 Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 4-1; 6-9
165 — #2 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) tech. fall #16 Kaleb Young (IA), 23-8; 6-14
174 — Joey Gunther (IA) dec. David Riojas (ILL), 6-1; 9-14
184 — #12 Emery Parker (ILL) dec. Mitch Bowman (IA), 5-3; 9-17
197 — #10 Cash Wilcke (IA) dec. Andre Lee (ILL), 3-1 SV1; 12-17
285 — #7 Sam Stoll (IA) pinned Deuce Rachal (ILL), 2:02; 18-17

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle

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