Michigan wrestling’s Jelani Embree battled Illinois’ Zac Braunagel for control in the 184-pound match.
Down 4-3 in the match, Braunagel went low, grabbed Embree’s legs and slammed him onto the mat to take the lead, 5-4. Braunagel finished Embree with a second thunderous takedown to end the match and clinch the meet for the No. 15 Illini (5-3 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) giving them a 20-13 win over No. 23 Michigan (5-3, 4-1) on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ll say it wasn’t our best performance,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “We lost some close matches. (Had) some attacks that didn’t finish cleanly, quickly. We had a couple matches in the middle get away from us with some bonus points.”
The Illini got off to a quick start, winning the first three matches. Travis Piotrowski had an early takedown in the 133-pound match against the Wolverines’ redshirt senior Austin Assad. But Assad fought back before losing, 9-7. In the 141-pound match, Dylan Duncan swept freshman Cole Mattin 6-0 to extend Illinois to 9-0. Michigan responded in the 149-pound match with redshirt junior Kanen Storr gaining a bonus point to cut the lead to 9-4. Redshirt freshman Will Lewan followed that up with another win over Eric Barone to cut the Illini lead to two.
“I’d say Kanen Storr wrestled pretty well, offensively and on his feet,” Bormet said. “But he needs to find ways to take guys to their back off his takedowns (that’s) something he’s working on. He had some missed opportunities there. But I think Kanen wrestled really well on his feet.”
Junior Reece Hughes missed several early opportunities for takedowns in the 165-pound match. Danny Braunagel took advantage with two late takedowns and extended the Illinois lead with a bonus point to 13-7. Joey Gunther added another bonus point with a 15-3 major decision before Zac Braunagel clinched the win.
“Guys did some good things in really almost every match,” Bormet said. “Overall I thought we wrestled pretty hard. Just in some critical moments, we just didn’t get as tough as we needed to on some finishes, we didn’t get as tough as we needed to on some defenses.”
Redshirt senior Jackson Striggow won his match with a single leg takedown and sophomore Mason Parris dominated with four takedowns to add consolation victories for the Wolverines.
In the end it was too little, too late for Michigan, and Bormet believes there were several missed chances in the match.
“We’re going to continue to work on the things we’ve been working on which is finishing our leg attacks, defending our legs and mat returns,” Bormet said. “Those would be the three things we’re going to continue to work on. They were three areas that cost us some matches today.
“Every one of these guys had opportunities to score more, we left a lot of points on the match and it cost us a couple matches.”