Michigan State wrestling falls to No. 21 Illinois despite late comeback


Sarah Smith

Tristan Lujan wrestles during Michigan State’s loss to Michigan on January 13, 2023. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Colby Schikora, General Assignment Reporter

EAST LANSING – No. 24 Michigan State wrestling suffered a hard-fought loss in its dual against No. 21 Illinois on Sunday afternoon. A comeback effort by the Spartans fell just short as Illinois won with a score of 17-16. 

The Spartans fall to 1-5 in Big Ten, with each loss coming to teams ranked in the top-25. 

Opening the night in the 125-pound weight class, Benny Gomez for the Spartans battled Maryland’s, Maximo Renteria. Gomez got his first look at Big Ten action this season and with Renteria through the first period, as it was 0-0 to start the second. 

After Renteria got a quick two, followed by a Gomez escape, the crowd was buzzing toward the end of the third period. With a late takedown, Renteria iced the match, winning by a 4-1 decision. 

In the 133 class, Rayvon Foley had a difficult time handling Lucas Byrd, who sits at a 21-3 record this season. In the third period, Foley got a quick escape to cut Byrd’s lead to 5-1; however, an elusive escape and last-second takedown would give Byrd the 8-1 decision. 

Trailing 6-0 heading into the third bout, junior Blake Noonan stepped in to fill Jordan Hamden’s shoes. Getting his first action in Big Ten play, Noonan found it challenging to get anything going against the 141-pound Illinois redshirt freshman, Danny Pucino. 

It was all Pucino from start to finish, as he got the bonus points and won by tech fall, 23-8. 

Peyton Omania put some life into Jenison early in his 149-pound bout against Illinois’ Jake Harrier. Omania went up 2-0 early, but Harrier found 6 quick points to go up 6-2. 

Omania got the home crowd going after a takedown to tie it up 6-6, but an official review resulted in the takedown being erased due to an out-of-bounds call. Harrier finished strong to take this one 8-4. 

At 174, freshman Ceaser Garza looked to continue the Spartans’ comeback against No. 12 Edmond Ruth. It was a valiant effort by Garza who came up just short, as Ruth’s takedown ability proved to be too much with a 13-7 decision, and the Fighting Illini stretched their lead to 17-7. 

No. 14 Layne Malczewski was on the mat for Michigan State at 184 pounds, dueling No. 24 Dylan Connell. 

After a stalemate for a long period, Malczewski got the first point on an escape in the second period. He made an effort to get in a few more attacks in the second period, but Connell fended him off well. 

Malczewski came out on top in a low-scoring match, with a decision of 2-0. 

With only two bouts left in the dual, the Spartans needed Illinois native Cam Caffey at 197 to spring his team back level on the scoresheet against Zac Braunagel. Braunagel controlled this match for much of the way, but something clicked with Caffey at the end, and he turned it up a notch. 

As the seconds whittled away at the end of the third period, Caffey managed two electric takedowns in about 12 seconds and had every Spartan fan in Jenison fieldhouse on their feet. 

Heavyweights Ryan Vasbinder (MSU) and Matt Wroblewski (Illinois)  led the final bout. Vasbinder needed bonus points for the win, so he did his best and left it all on the mat. Wroblewski stayed back and did not attempt to do much attacking, as he just had to keep it a stalemate to get the win. Vasbinder got an escape in the second period, but no scoring after resulted in a 17-16 team win for Illinois. 

The Spartans move on to their final home dual of the season against the Indiana Hoosiers on Friday, Feb. 10, before one final regular season dual. The Spartans hope to get a good run of form before the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships.