Preview of the ILLINI versus Nerdwestern

WHO:  Nerdwestern

WHAT:  Dual

WHEN:  Friday, January 20 at 7:00 pm (Central)

WHERE:  Welsh-Ryan Arena, 2705 Ashland Avenue, Evanston


TV/STREAMING:  BTN+ (subscription service)

TICKETS:  Adult $7; Youth $5


It was Sunday, January 7, 2018.

The number one song on the Billboard charts in the United States and the United Kingdom was Perfect by Ed Sheeran. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($10,663,927) beat out the number two at the box office that day, Star Wars: Episode VIII -- The Last Jedi ($6,806,626). Your kid brother had to wait nine more days for the release of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, and it was killing him. 

A Winter Weather Advisory of freezing rain south of Interstate 80 almost doomed the biggest event of the day, a wrestling match between the University of ILLINOIS and Northwestern. Instead, it just meant that a heartbroken Northwestern team would have to travel back to Evanston in dreary and dangerous conditions. 

You see, the Wildcats could almost taste victory.

Their hammers, Sebastian Rivera, Ryan Deakin and Johnny Sebastian had built a 17-15 lead for their team with only the heavyweight match remaining. They had their #19-ranked fatty ready to go, and he was sure to win! 

Then, with only seconds left in that match, THE DEUCE WENT ON THE LOOSE! He used an arm throw of all things to take down his Wildcat foe and win 3-2, giving the ILLINI a wonderfully satisfying come-from-behind victory over the nerd empire. Jump to 7:35 of this video:


Here's how that dual looked in a box score:

#12 Illinois 18, Northwestern 17

125: #12 Sebastian Rivera (NU) dec. Travis Piotrowski (ILL), 9-3                     ILL 0, NU 3
133: Colin Valdiviez (NU) dec. #20 Dylan Duncan (ILL), 12-6                           ILL 0, NU 6
141: Mike Carr (ILL) dec. Alec McKenna (NU), 3-2                                           ILL 3, NU 6
149: #9 Ryan Deakin (NU) major dec. Eric Barone (ILL), 12-0                         ILL 3, NU 10
157: #13 Kyle Langenderfer (ILL) dec. Shayne Oster (NU), 6-4                       ILL 6, NU 10
165: #2 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) fall Michael Sepke (NU), 2:33                             ILL 12, NU 10
174: Johnny Sebastian (NU) dec. David Riojas (ILL), 16-8                              ILL 12, NU 14
184: #12 Emery Parker (ILL) dec. Mitch Sliga (NU), 8-3                                  ILL 15, NU 14
197: Regis Durbin (NU) dec. Andre Lee (ILL), 4-3                                            ILL 15, NU 17
HWT: Deuce Rachal (ILL) dec. #19 Conan Jennings (NU), 3-2                        ILL 18, NU 17


The ILLINI are 4-3 in duals having started out with a win over Buffalo (28-9), a loss to NC State (12-27, a win over Chattanooga (32-9), followed by a loss to Pitt (6-30), after a very nice Midlands, the ILLINI lost to #2 Iowa (19-25) and beat #13 Wisconsin (18-17). Finally, two nights ago, the ILLINI beat Purdue 31-9, a total team flex.  

Northwestern is 2-2 on the season. They started the year with a 20-13 win over Virginia. After the holiday season, the Wildcats beat Minnesota 18-11, then lost to Iowa 9-27. Yesterday, the Mildcats lost to Nebraska 15-22. 

Since Iowa is a common and recent opponent, let's look at that box score:

#2 Iowa 27, #11 Northwestern 9

133: No. 11 Chris Cannon (NW) over Cullan Schriever (IOWA) (Dec 4-1)
141: No. 2 Real Woods (IOWA) over No. 10 Frankie Tal-Shahar (NW) (Tech Fall 17-2)
149: No. 4 Yahya Thomas (NW) over No. 8 Max Murin (IOWA) (Dec 3-2)
157: No. 17 Cobe Siebrecht (IOWA) over No. 9 Trevor Chumbley (NW) (Dec 6-3)
165: No. 10 Patrick Kennedy (IOWA) over HM Maxx Mayfield (NW) (Dec 4-2)
174: No. 17 Nelson Brands (IOWA) over Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (NW) (Dec 8-2)
184: No. 8 Abe Assad (IOWA) over Evan Bates (NW) (MD 10-2)
197: HM Andrew Davison (NW) over Zach Glazier (IOWA) (Dec 7-6)
285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (IOWA) over No. 4 Lucas Davison (NW) (Dec 3-2)
125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (IOWA) over No. 4 Michael DeAugustino (NW) (Fall, 2:01)


NERDS! That despicable university gave us David Schwimmer. He was the whiny crybaby from Friends that your wife made you watch once a week, then when Seinfeld came on, she always had "something to do." SCHWIMMER! 

Then, there's this fellow. If you're gonna pose for the cringiest photoshop-ready image on the internet, Ima take that bait:


125.  MAXIMO RENTERIA (#81, 3-6) versus MICHAEL DEAUGUSTINO (#5, 1-3)

DeAugustino is coming off an injury, and I don't think he much cares for duals, as that one-hour start time after making weight must kill him. Maximo keeps inching towards greatness, and all of his fans want him to leap into it. 

The Wildcat is coming off a surprising major decision loss to Liam Cronin of Nebraska. It was the first match of the dual, and that, as well as returning from injury, could explain the score. Still, this is the perfect time for Renteria to paint a top ten win on his fighter jet. is calling for a 7-4 win for the bad guy with the long beard. DeAugustino is 5-6 against common opponents, but Maximo is 0-5. 

133.  LUCAS BYRD (#7, 17-3) versus CHRIS CANNON (#12, 10-4)

Is there anything better than watching Chris Cannon squirm on the bottom in the third period with his palms lifted up, already down four or five points to Lucas Byrd, while one of his parents is screaming at him from the stands? That's my meth. 

So far, Lucas is 4-0 versus his rival from Northwestern. The last one was the closest at 2-1, so that may be why is predicting a tight 7-5 win for the ILLINI. Byrd is 28-10 against the same guys who have given Cannon a 22-10 record. 

The Wildcat's losses this year have been to top ten guys, and two of them came at a Cliff Keen tournament where he was injured. So, whether those two losses were affected by an injury, I don't know. He is coming off a fine 6-1 victory over Nebraska's Kyle Burwick, which is a nice margin against a good wrestler. 

As a two-time All American and a U23 World Team member, Cannon is always going to be dangerous. But Lucas Byrd has been dangerouser. 

141.  DANNY PUCINO (#18, 11-5) versus FRANKIE TAL-SHAHAR (#16, 3-3)

Like his teammate at 125, Tal-Shahar has seen limited action this season due to injury. He didn't wrestle until the Midlands and then had to medical forfeit out of that tournament. However, he has wrestled in the Wildcats duals with Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. He beat the well-regarded #8 Jake Bergeland of Minnesota, but lost to his #2 and #3 opponents from Iowa and Nebraska. 

Last season, Tal-Shahar won two matches at the B1G tournament and qualified for the Big Dance. He ended up with a 12-10 record that included a 4-3 win over Clay Carlson of South Dakota State in March. The year before that, when Pucino and Tal-Shahar were both true freshman, it was the ILLINI who came out on top 6-2 in the extra match wrestled before the dual. is predicting an 8-6 win for the ILLINI. Trying to wrestle into wrestling shape has proven hard for the Wildcat, and you can bet that Pucino will keep the pressure on him the whole match. On top of all that, Tal-Shahar looks pretty huge for the weight, and the quick matches after a weigh-in at duals may not be to his liking. 

149.  JAKE HARRIER (#199, 4-9) versus YAHYA THOMAS (#6, 14-1)

Has Jake Harrier won this spot for the ILLINI? I don't know. He's been the man during the last two duals. He had a nice "save" against a very game Joseph Zargo of Wisconsin that he very nearly won, then put on a takedown clinic against Purdue's starter. 

KEVON DAVENPORT (#63, 6-8) was listed in the probable lineup for both duals, so he may be the one to go against Thomas. 

Of course, we all want to see a rematch between the Wildcat and Mikey Carr, as their only meeting was won by the ILLINI. That won't be the case, though, since Carr is now up at 157. predicts a 7-3 win by Yahya over Kevon, but a 11-3 major for the Wildcat over Jake. Besides that win by Carr, the kid from Northwestern has won all of his dual matches against ILLINOIS. Last year, he got a pinfall. That's certainly something to avoid here. His bonus percentage is only at 33% this season, and his last three against the #7, #22 and #167 wrestlers were won by an average score of 1.3 points. 

The ILLINI will want to limit the damage at this weight. 

157.  ANTHONY FEDERICO (#101, 5-9) versus TREVOR CHUMBLEY (#13, 17-4)

I know that MIKEY CARR (#18, 1-0) is ranked highly already by the various services after he made his surprise debut against Iowa, but until I see him wrestling, I'll put Federico up as the starter. That doesn't mean Chumbley shouldn't be preparing for Carr. In fact, he should probably spend 90 to 95 percent of his preparation time on him. is going with an 8-3 win for Chumbley if he faces Carr, and a 10-3 verdict over Federico. The latter is coming off a close dual loss against #3 Kendall Coleman in which he looked very good. 

The Wildcat is coming off of two straight losses to #1 Peyton Robb of Nebraska (0-2) and #19 Cobe Siebrecht of Iowa (3-6). He lost to Kendall Coleman by one point at Cliff Keen. The way they're wrestling, I would not be surprised with an ILLINI win no matter who goes. Still, damages may need to be limited just in case. 

165.  DANNY BRAUNAGEL (#15, 16-5) versus MAXX MAYFIELD (#33, 18-6)

I was thinking that the Brawlnagel looked a little ill during his match against Purdue, and then boom he pinned the guy. Hang on that crotch lock for :01 too long, and Danny'll make you go to sleep. is calling for a 9-6 win for the ILLINI. To win the dual, the Orange and Blue will need to make a lot of hay during the matches from 165 to 197. 

During conference duals, Mayfield has beaten #34 Andrew Sparks of Minnesota and #28 Bubba Wilson of Nebraska. He had a close loss to Iowa's #11 Patrick Kennedy. For our purposes, the past result that might matter the most is Danny Braunagel beating him 8-1 at the Midlands. 

The Brawlnagel is 5-1 against common opposition, while the Wildcat is 1-4 against the same guys. 

174.  EDMOND RUTH (#12, 20-1) versus TROY FISHER (#29, 13-4)

This match may or may not happen, as Fisher has been a no-show since the Midlands. In fact, he had to medical forfeit to the ILLINI's Trey Sizemore there, which makes two wins for Sizemore over the Wildcat. Our favorite algorithm is calling for a three-point win for Ruth if Fisher goes. If his backup, ANKHAA ENKHMANDAKH (#156, 4-9), wrestles, then is going with a 16-5 major decision for the ILLINI. 

I think it would be foolhardy to bring back a recently-injured wrestler to face Ruth, who will just bear hug and throw him violently to his back twice, but I'm not Matt Storniolo. 

184.  DYLAN CONNELL (#24, 14-10) versus EVAN BATES (#41, 11-11)

Northwestern has some muscle-heads at 184 who will have fun with Connell's pure technique. Bates has wrestled the last three duals for Northwestern, all losses by major decision to top fourteen wrestlers. 

The Wildcat has made the transition from 197 at the beginning of the season to 184 now. He could be pulling a lot of weight here. is predicting a one-point win for the ILLINI. They have similar records against common opponents except that Connell has beaten the same guys by more and lost to the same guys by less. If Bates is a no-go, then the Wildcats might wrestle JON HALVORSEN (#57, 7-6) or JACK JESSEN (#111, 3-7). 

197.  ZAC BRAUNAGEL (#14, 16-3) versus ANDREW DAVISON (#27, 14-7)

Mark this down as a well-deserved accolade, but did the NCAA never hear about IMAR and Byrd and Delgado and Richards and so on? I remember one day a couple years back when Luffman beat two top eight (and returning AA) Big Ten wrestlers. Picayune questions aside, this is a remarkable and well-deserved achievement for Big Brawny:

The Brawlnagel followed up that honor with a beat-down of the Purdue big man, scoring at will. Against Davison, he will have a familiar foe, having beaten him already this year 8-5 at the MSU Open. 

Davison is 1-2 in B1G dual action with a win over Iowa's backup and losses to pretty highly-ranked (in the 20s) wrestlers from Minnesota and Nebraska. is calling on Brawlnagel to win a 7-4 decision. Against common opponents, the ILLINI is a fine 9-4, while the Wildcat checks in at 2-9. 

285.  MATT WROBLEWSKI (#90, 10-10) versus LUCAS DAVISON (#4, 12-2)

The returning All-American from Northwestern has a previous 5-0 win over Wroblewski, but that was almost three years ago, back when they both wrestled at 197. After a gazillion neck bridges, Davison is now at heavyweight and has improved his career winning percentage markedly. 

This will be another match in which the ILLINI will want to limit damages. is saying we'll see a major decision for the muscly fellow for Evanston. WroboCop is 15-31 against the same folks who have given Davison a 28-13 record. 

CONCLUSION predicts a 16-15 win for Evanston's Big Ten team. If the Mildcats wrestle the lineup they fielded against Iowa, it is a 16-16 tie, as Ed Ruth gets a major over Ankhaa Enkhmandakh. All of this, of course, depends on whether Mikey Carr is in the lineup as well. 

The paragraph above was written on Saturday, January 14, just two days ago. 

Since then, the ILLINI blew out Purdue 31-9, and Northwestern lost to Nebraska 15-22, and has changed its prediction to an 18-13 win for the Orange and Blue! The match still must be wrestled, but that's a sign of how ILLINOIS is turning heads around the country. 

With wrestlers at 125 and 141 still seemingly recovering from injuries and getting their lungs in shape, the ILLINI can either limit damages or pull off a couple of big wins. The strength of the ILLINI should be from 165 to 197, as they are all favorites to win. 

Moreover, they've all looked very good recently. 

Lucas Byrd is a favorite at 133, and Danny Pucino has lifted his level enough to become the favorite at 141. 

On a final note, has anybody else noticed that Northwestern wrestlers do an extraordinary number of neck bridges every day? They have the pound-for-pound largest necks in college wrestling! I'm sure they must be doing neck bridges during their World Studies 101 class and during lunch and in bed at night and while watching Yellowstone because there's nothing else that could possibly explain it. 


Two weeks, two tournaments, two championships, two outstanding wrestler awards. I'm seeing Blanton junior and Kennedy junior, but I know these men will write their own stories, and the possibilities are limitless. Somebody pop the popcorn!


  1. An additional note I forgot to put in the preview: The ILLINI wrestle Nerdwestern on Friday in Evanston, then they have to return to Champaign to face Maryland on Sunday. Nerdwestern, on the other hand, only have to worry about a home dual with the ILLINI this weekend.


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