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Wisconsin Badgers Wrestling Overcome Referees in Thriller vs. Illinois



Photo: Courtesy of BadgerNotes Staff Writer Ryan Eilers

The No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers Wrestling program had to overcome suspect officiating to defeat the Illinois Fighting Illini on Senior Day.

It seemed like the referees thought that Senior Day was a day to make the dual all about themselves. Beginning right out of the gate Eric Barnett was hit with a stall warning for “not looking to turn” his opponent.

It didn’t stop there.

This refereeing crew is bottom of the barrel, respectfully. After the home crowd continuously booed them they continued to double down on their incompetence. For these All-Stars they continued their half-assed calls throughout the finale at the Field House by smirking and not calling stalls on the Illini.

Wisconsin Head Coach Chris Bono began to count aloud when the Illini wrestlers were on the ankle as you only have five seconds to be in that position before you need to improve.

Did the referees call it? Nope.  Did the referees even count when they were on the ankle? Nope.

According to NCAA rules “the referee will immediately begin a five-second count for stalling once the offensive wrestler positions himself with one or both hands below the buttocks of the defensive wrestler. The referee will stop the count when the offensive wrestler improves his position, moves his hold above the buttocks of the defensive wrestler or releases the hold.”

It’s clear that Big Ten wrestling may be too competitive for them if they want to make it about themselves. I usually don’t care about bad officiating if the incompetence is equal.

Sunday it was not – so I will state the obvious. This officiating today was awful and thankfully it didn’t cost the Wisconsin Badgers. The referees either dislike Coach Bono that much or we need to start checking some FanDuel accounts.

Let’s take a look at how the Badgers performed vs. Illinois.

125 pounds

No. 2 Eric Barnett vs. Justin Cardani

What more can be said about EB that I haven’t said all year? He is a consummate professional that just goes about his work and is looking to dominate every time he steps on the mat.

If wrestlers are looking for someone to emulate – look no further than Barnett. On his final ride inside the Field House – Barnett made the most of it and went out with a win.

As the wise philosopher Dr. Seuss once said “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Barnett won this match by a 8–0 major decision.

133 pounds 

Nicolar Rivera vs. No. 30 Anthony Madrigal

Nico was battling and just couldn’t get the takedown. Those become even more difficult when the opponent can go backwards and hold on for dear life to not get a takedown.

Shout out those refs for their stellar mat management!

Rivera lost the match by a 11–5 decision.

141 pounds

Felix Lettini vs. No. 26 Danny Pucino

Fe’ was battling and the score doesn’t represent the competitiveness of the match. He was in it until the end but Pucino was just too much to overcome.

Lettini lost the match by a 23–7 technical fall decision.

149 pounds

No. 22 Joseph Zargo vs. Jake Harrier

Junkyard Joe was back at it again and is always looking to get physical. He takes the fight to the opponent and that was clear on Sunday. Zargo kept coming forward trying to get points.

Helluva match! Great work, Zargo!

Zargo won the match by a 19–6 major decision.

157 pounds

Luke Mechler vs. Joseph Roberts

This match was horrendously officiated. Mechler came forward all match and Roberts wasn’t even warned for stalling. With boos raining down from the Wisconsin Badgers faithful – Roberts scored a sudden victory takedown.

When you run for seven minutes you end up with the gas for one shot in overtime.

It makes sense if you don’t think about it.

Mechler lost the match by a 4–1 sudden victory decision.

165 pounds

No. 5 Dean Hamiti vs. No. 33 Chris Moore

DJ continues his run of dominance. I could go on a tangent but I’ll just say this – we are watching greatness and this doesn’t just come around that often.

Hamiti won this match by fall.

174 pounds

No. 12 Max Maylor vs. No. 8 Edmond Ruth

In a ranked matchup – these warriors went to battle and Ruth came out on top. Edmond, like his brother Edward (three-time NCAA champ at Penn State), is very good on his feet and Maylor had to work.

I’m biased, but I believe that if there was another minute in the match Maylor would have had a chance for the upset.

Maylor lost this match by by a 8–5 decision.

184 pounds

No. 16 Shane Liegel vs. No. 31 Dylan Connell

What a way to end his career at the UW Field House. It wasn’t the most conventional path but from a Division III National Champion to coming home to finish a families legacy.

From father Ralph to his sons, Scott, Seth and Shane – Wisconsin wrestling is a Liegel legacy.

Liegel won this match by a 2–0 decision.

197 pounds

Josh Otto vs. Isiah Pettigrew

The senior continues to impress even in defeat. Wrestling up three weight classes – Otto is the ultimate team guy and continues to go out on his shield.

Bummed for him that that was how his final match went at the Field House – but happy to cover this season and the watch heart of a lion.

Otto lost this match by a 12–3 major decision.

285 pounds

Gannon Rosenfeld vs. Peter Marinopoulos

Rosenfeld’s hard work continues to pay off and his victory won the dual for the Badgers team!

Coach Bono credits the work ethic of Rosenfeld and the work he put in this week.

“He’s getting better, this was the best week of practice I’ve ever seen him have. Coach Reader locked in on him this week and showed him the potential he could have. Very happy that a young guy like that can go out there with the pressure of a team win and pull it off.”

Rosenfeld won this match by a 12–6 decision.

What’s Next for Wisconsin Badgers Wrestling?

Wisconsin is on the road for the last three duals and that starts with a Big Ten tilt vs Minnesota on Friday 2/16 at 8PM on BTN.

Stay tuned to Badger Notes for coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers wrestling program and their upcoming competitions!

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Ryan Eilers covers the Wisconsin Badgers football and wrestling programs for and has had his work published on Bleacher Report. He also makes up 1/4 of the BadgerNotes After Dark podcast crew.