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Maryland wrestling continues Big Ten woes in 31-9 loss to Illinois

Jaron Smith’s victory and a few new faces in the lineup didn’t change much for the Terps.


Starting at 174-pounds was a first for Maryland wrestling this season. But 197-pound Jaron Smith was ready to wrestle despite the lack of time he would usually have to prepare for his match.

Smith gave the Terps their first win of the night as he defeated Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski in a close 6-5 decision. The Terp held a 4-2 lead after the first period after securing two takedowns over Wroblewski, but found the match tied at 4-4 going into the final period thanks to another reversal from his opponent.

With the hometown crowd roaring and nearly the entire pavilion routing for him, Smith swiftly took down Wroblewski in the third period to take a 6-4 lead. An escape by Wroblewski finished the match as Smith walked away victorious by a one-point margin.

“First match of the year that we’ve started at 174 and it’s got to feel weird for everybody in the lineup,” Smith said. “But at a certain point you’ve got to realize that you’re emulating the end of the year because when you go to nationals or you go to Big Tens you start weighing in, and you have no idea when you’re going to be up.”

Even with head coach Alex Clemsen trying out two new wrestlers, Smith was the only Terp to record an actual victory in the 31-9 loss Sunday — though 165-pounder Nick Cochran received points from his opponent forfeiting. With his victory, Smith is the only Maryland wrestler to boast a positive Big Ten dual record, as the team is still without a win in conference play.

“They won the coin flip and they picked the starting weight class. Their team responded better to it than ours,” Clemsen said.

Neither of the Terps who made their debut — 141-pounder Quinn Devaney and 149-pounder Ryan Garlitz — made much of a difference, as both were dominated by the Fighting Illini.

“[I] just made a lineup change,” Clemsen said when asked about starting the two.

The 141-pound bout brought another win for the Fighting Illini as Dylan Duncan won by fall over Maryland’s Quinn Devaney. Duncan went up 12-1 over the Terp after scoring two separate six-point moves from neutral to Devaney’s back. Duncan closed out the match in the second period by putting Devaney in a double arm bar to secure a fall for Illinois.

Illinois earned more bonus points in the 149-pound bout. The Fighting Illini sent out Mousa Jodeh to take on Garlitz, and he came away with a 9-1 major decision over the Terp. After going up 6-0 in the first period from a takedown and a cradle, Jodeh’s lead was secured, and he walked away with his first conference win this season.

For the first time this season the Terps’ dual began at the 174-pound bout with Philip Spadafora taking on Illinois’ David Riojas. Spadafora and Riojas were evenly matched throughout the first two periods and after back-and-forth takedowns, reversals and escapes, the score was set at 5-4 going into the third period. Riojas finally got into is groove in the final period and scored two takedowns and an escape to beat Spadafora by a 10-5 decision.

For the 184-pound bout, Illinois sent out one of their two ranked wrestlers, No. 15 Zac Braunagel to face Maryland’s Kyle Jasenski. Braunagel showed the crowd why he is ranked after he defeated Jasenski by a 21-5 technical fall in the third period. The Illini scored eight takedowns along with two tilts totaling six points to reach his technical fall. Jasenski’s five points all came from escapes.

The heavyweight bout brought no success for Maryland as Parker Robinson dropped a 15-2 major decision against Illinois’ Luke Luffman. Luffman recorded multiple takedowns and tilts for back-points in his smooth victory over Robinson.

Not much changed in the lighter-weights as the Terps recorded another individual loss in Illinois’ Justin Cardani’s 4-2 win over Maryland’s Brandon Cray. After a scoreless first period, Cardani earned a reversal in the second period. Cray scored a takedown in the third period and had the chance to win, but could not come out on top as the Illinois wrestler got two more points from an escape and riding time.

After intermission, the Terps sent out King Sandoval to face off against Illinois’ No. 7 Travis Piotrowski. Sandoval has had a few close matches with ranked wrestlers so far this season, but was unable to come away with a win against the Fighting Illini wrestler. Piotrowski kept Sandoval scoreless through three periods and recorded a takedown, escape and a point from riding time in his 4-0 shutout.

In the 157-pound bout, Maryland’s Jahi Jones gave the crowd a burst of excitement in his matchup against Eric Barone. Jones was down 3-0 going into the third period after being handed a takedown and escape, but nearly made a comeback in the final frame.

Jones tied the score at three apiece with an escape and takedown of his own, but it wasn’t enough. After cutting Barone and giving him an escape point, Jones couldn’t manage to secure another takedown, losing 4-3.

The dual concluded with Mayland’s Kyle Cochran receiving a forfeit in the 165-pound bout, as Illinois was already well ahead.

Three things to know

1. Maryland only has one more chance to break its Big Ten losing streak. After losing to Illinois, Maryland’s last chance at a Big Ten win this season will come next Sunday when it wrestles No. 23 Northwestern in College Park. The Terps’ last Big ten win was in January 2016, and four years without a conference win sparks some initiative for Clemsen and his wrestlers to get a victory.

“We’ve got to get back our our positions and our style of wrestling,” Clemsen said. “We didn’t do a very good job at that. So we really need to take ownership of who we are and how we want to fight because it can look different from [125] to heavyweight.”

2. Cochran receives a forfeit at 165-pounds. The Terp was not happy with his forfeit against Illinois. After practicing and cutting weight for the week, Cochran was hoping to get on the mat to possibly knock off some top competition. Instead he closed out the dual without any mat time.

“It’s pretty frustrating working up a whole week preparing for a certain match especially getting warmed up here and cutting weight and then not being able to wrestle the match, especially in front of my home crowd,” Cochran said.

3. Smith is the only Terp with a Big Ten record over .500. With his win Sunday, Smith advanced himself to have the best record on the team when it comes to conference play. Smith’s conference record now stands at 3-2. Cochran falls not far behind as he sits at .500 with a Big Ten dual record of 4-4.