The Gophers return home this weekend to take on No. 9 Illinois in the Sports Pavilion at 1 p.m. CT Sunday afternoon
Returning home after its first Big Ten road contest this season, the top-ranked Gopher Wrestling team will host No. 9 Illinois at the Sports Pavilion this Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. The Gophers will put their unblemished overall record, 8-0, and perfect mark in Big Ten competition, 4-0, on the line against the Illini, who are 8-1 this season and 2-0 in the Big Ten. As part of its road trip to the Twin Cities, Illinois will stop in Iowa City on Friday night to take on No. 2 Iowa prior to Sunday’s showdown with the Gophers.
Minnesota remained undefeated on the season with a pair of victories last weekend. The Gophers slipped past No. 17 Michigan, 20-19, at home on Friday night before traveling to Piscataway, N.J., for their first-ever meeting with No. 23 Rutgers, a dual the Gophers won, 23-12. Entering Sunday’s meet, Minnesota has won 27 of its last 28 duals dating back to January 2013. The Gophers have also won 15 straight, the team’s longest dual-match winning streak since the 2007 National Championships team won 20 in a row.
Heading into this weekend, Illinois has won its last two matches to begin the Big Ten season 2-0, most recently defeating Indiana, 36-3, last weekend. Illinois opened its season with six consecutive victories, which included sweeping the Illini Quad to begin the season and then taking three duals on a trip to California. The Illini suffered their lone loss to-date at home on Thanksgiving weekend when they fell to No. 13 Lehigh, 24-15.
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The Gophers and the Illini have wrestled two common opponents so far this season. Non-conference, both teams posted dominate victories over Grand Canyon – Illinois 42-6 and Minnesota 36-8 – and in Big Ten competition both have defeated Rutgers – Illinois 24-9 and Minnesota 23-12.
Sunday will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2012-13 season, when Minnesota defeated Illinois, 18-14, by overcoming an eight-point deficit with four consecutive victories to close out the meet. Looking back at that dual, there is one potential rematch on this weekend’s card. At 141, No. 4 Nick Dardanes may wrestle Logan Arlis, an opponent Dardanes defeated 10-4 to contribute three key points to the last Gopher victory over the Illini. It will be Dardanes’ first match since recording his 100th career victory against Michigan last week.
Four other Gophers who started that dual are scheduled to wrestle on Sunday – No. 1 Chris Dardanes (133), No. 1 Dylan Ness (157), No. 3 Logan Storley (174) and No. 1 Scott Schiller (197). On the Illinois side, no more than three wrestlers will be returning to the Pav from that matchup two years ago – Arlis, No. 1 Jesse Delgado (125) and Christopher Lopez (285). Outside of the match between Dardanes and Arlis, every other scheduled bout will be the first collegiate match between the two competing wrestlers.
Reviewing the probable starters for Sunday’s meet, as many as 15 ranked wrestlers will compete in the dual, two-thirds of whom are ranked in the top 10 at their weights. Three matches will pit top-six wrestlers against each other. At 174, Storley is scheduled to take on No. 6 Zac Brunson. Storley’s five victories by technical fall this season are tied for tops in the country. At 133, Chris Dardanes, who is 15-0 this season, will take on No. 5 Zane Richards. The highlighted bout of the night, however; will come at 157, where it’s guaranteed one competitor will suffer his first loss of the season when Ness puts his 21-0 record on the line against No. 5 Isaiah Martinez, a redshirt freshman who is 18-0 on the season.
These two teams first wrestled way back in 1926. This weekend’s dual will be the 56th in the series, one the Gophers lead 31-22-2. Minnesota’s victory two years ago was its fourth straight in the series, with Illinois last knocking off the Gophers in the 2007-08 season, a 19-17 victory in Minneapolis. Since J Robinson took over the Minnesota program, the Gophers are 14-3 head-to-head against Illinois.
The dual will be available to stream live on BTN Plus beginning at 1 p.m. CT. BTN Plus requires a user subscription to stream live events. Updates from throughout the dual will be provided on the Gopher Wrestling Twitter feed. Following the conclusion of the event, a full recap will be available on GopherSports.com.
Minnesota Match Notes (Ill.)
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