Hawkeye wrestling set to host Illinois in Sunday matinee

After a strong performance in Minneapolis last weekend, Iowa will put its unblemished record on the line.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 197-pound Jacob Warner grapples with Nebraska’s Eric Shultz during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. No. 2 Shultz defeated No. 4 Warner by decision, 3-2, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 31-6.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

When the Big Ten Conference released its wrestling schedule Dec. 31, Iowa was slated to host a triangular meet with Michigan and Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Jan. 31.

The schedule shifted after No. 2 Wolverines pulled out of the meet because of a department-wide, COVID-19-related activities pause mandated by Michigan Athletics.

“We were all looking forward to it,” Hawkeye junior Jacob Warner said. “Obviously they’re No. 2. We were assuming that they were going to have their big guns in the lineup getting ready to roll. When we found out, it was just a little disappointing.”

While Michigan is officially out of Sunday’s meet, No. 9 Illinois is still in.

The original schedule for the meet pitted the Hawkeyes against the Wolverines at 11 a.m. and the Fighting Illini at 3 p.m. Now, Iowa and Illinois will just compete in an 11 a.m. dual Sunday.

Michigan and Iowa have yet to schedule a new date to wrestle each other.

Although head coach Tom Brands was disappointed that his team would not be competing against Michigan this weekend, he is thankful that the Hawkeyes still have an opponent on the schedule Sunday.

“Most important is we still got a date on the calendar, and Illinois is coming to town regardless. So, we’ve got to be ready to go,” Brands said.

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The Hawkeyes shouldn’t have any difficulty getting ready to wrestle the Illini, as six of ten bouts may pit ranked wrestlers against each other, according to the match’s probable lineups.

At 197 pounds, Warner will likely face Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski. Both juniors are ranked inside Trackwrestling’s top-25 197-pounders. Warner is No. 3 on the list and Wroblewski is No. 24.

But the matchup against the Illini means more to Warner than just another opportunity to bolster his postseason resume with another win over a quality opponent.

“Illinois is huge,” Warner said. “It’s probably bigger to me than a lot of my other teammates being from Illinois. I live ten minutes from the campus, so I grew up in their wrestling room. I’ve been going there since I was eight years old. My kids club actually practiced there. So, it’s a big meet for me, a big one to get up for.”

The Tolono, Illinois, native will face his hometown team for the second time in his Hawkeye career. In 2018, Warner defeated Andre Lee, 5-1, when Iowa traveled to Champaign and beat Illinois by a single point, 18-17.

Warner is 1-1 in his bouts so far this season. He lost a close contest, 3-2, to No. 2 Eric Shultz when the Hawkeyes faced Nebraska to open their season. But Warner bounced back with a dominant performance against Garett Joles, earning a 13-2 major decision and putting four points on the board for the Hawkeyes as part of Iowa’s 35-4 route of Minnesota.

Wroblewski has three wins and one loss this season and has faced Warner twice in his colligate career. Warner has won each matchup against the Illini mainstay, defeating him via fall at the 2018 UNI Open and by a 6-1 decision at the 2019 Midlands Championship.