FRESNO - In front of the third-largest crowd in program history, Fresno State Wrestling made its return to the Valley on Friday night in front of 6,840 fans at the Save Mart Center as the Bulldogs fell 33-10 to No. 14 Illinois. "It is a start. I talked to the team before the match and I told them I wanted to see hustle, effort and fight. I thought that I saw that for the most part," said head coach Troy Steiner.
Starting off the night at 125 pounds, the Fighting Illini got on the scoreboard quickly with a pin by sophomore Travis Piotrowski in 1:04 of the 'Dogs Sean Williams to take a quick 6-0 lead in the dual.
Illinois increased its lead to 10-0 with a major decision at 133 pounds by redshirt freshman Dylan Duncan who downed Bulldogs' Trevor Williams and continued to pitch a shutout with a 13-7 win by redshirt freshman Mike Carr over the 'Dogs Chris De Loza at 141 pounds.
The 'Dogs got on the board at 149 pounds as Clovis native, freshman Khristian Olivas, picked up a 10-2 major decision over No. 19 ranked wrestler Eric Barone to cut Illinois' lead to 13-4. Olivas broke open a 2-2 match in the second period with four takedowns to lock up the first win at the SMC by a Bulldog wrestler in over 11 years.
Fellow Clovis native Greg Gaxiola kept it going at 157 pounds as he registered a 9-5 win over No. 16 Kyle Langenderfer. Building a 3-2 lead after the first period, two second period takedowns for Gaxiola increased his lead to 7-2 before one final takedown in the third period locked up the win for the Bulldog.
With the Illini leading 13-7 at the break, Illinois came out of the 10-minute intermission putting up points as Lemoore native and two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez notched a 28-13 technical fall victory over the 'Dogs Isaiah Hokit to increase its lead to 18-7.
Back-to-back pins at 174 and 184 pounds for Illinois made the team score 30-7 in favor of the Fighting Illini, but junior Richie Brandt, a Madera native, fought tough holding a 3-3 tie after two periods. A third-period escape for Illinois' Andre Lee turned out to the difference as Lee won 4-3 as Illinois took a 33-7 lead.
The 'Dogs got one final win at heavyweight as Clovis native AJ Nevills won 7-5 using a third-period takedown with 30 seconds left to break a 5-5 tie to make the final score of the match 33-10.
The 6,840 fans came only 23 fans short of matching the second-largest crowd in program history, which came Jan. 9, 2005 vs. Iowa in front of 6,863 fans. The largest crowd that has ever attended a Bulldog wrestling dual was Jan. 6, 2004 when the 'Dogs battled Iowa State in front of 9,750 fans.
Fresno State returns to action on Tuesday when they travel to San Diego for its first Big 12 dual taking on Air Force on the USS Midway in the Inaugural Battle on the Midway.
Fresno State vs. No. 14 Illinois Match-By-Match Results
125: No. 14/17/19 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois) wins by fall over Sean Williams (FS), 1:04 | ILL 6, FS 0
133: No. 17/16/15 Dylan Duncan (Illinois) maj. dec. over Trevor Williams (FS), 12-4 | ILL 10, FS 0
141: Mike Carr (Illinois) dec. Chris De Loza (FS), 13-7 | ILL 13, FS 0
149: Khristian Olivas (FS) maj. dec. No. 19/-/20 Eric Barone (Illinois), 10-2 | ILL 13, FS 4
157: Greg Gaxiola (FS) dec. No. 16/19/- Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois), 9-5 | FS 13, SFSU 7
165: No. 2/2/2 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) tech. fall Isaiah Hokit (FS), 28-13 | FS 18, FS 7
174: Eric Rojas (Illinois) pinned Dominic Kincaid (FS), Fall 4:22 | ILL 24, FS 7
184: No. 8/6/6 Emery Parker (Illinois) pinned Angel Solis (FS), Fall 5:20 | ILLL 30, FS 7
197: Andre Lee (Illinois) dec. Richie Brandt (FS), 4-3 | ILL 33, FS 7
HWT: AJ Nevills (FS) dec. Duece Rachal (Illinois), 7-5 | ILL 33, FS 10
Rankings are listed in Intermat, W.I.N., FloWrestling
Head Coach Troy Steiner Quotes
On his initial thoughts on tonight's match...
"There are definitely still a lot of things we need to work on. Sometimes you don't see that in the room, or they don't see it at the level they were at before. A lot of these guys are young and some of them are right out of high school. Overall, I thought it was a decent performance from our guys. The fight that I saw at 149, Olivas was keeping his head in the match and then getting the takedown at the end was a big thing for him. At 157, Langenderfer from Illinois is a pretty solid guy and I thought that Gaxiola did a great job at creating a lot of action and giving himself opportunities to put points on the board."
On getting the first home match out of the way...
"It is good. I knew it was going to be when I saw the set-up. So many people have worked on this moment. I have worked on one aspect of it, but so many others should get the credit for the atmosphere that was there tonight. The amount of people that were there doesn't come from me, that comes from marketing and the facilities staffs. The way they had it all set up was awesome."
On tonight's turn out...
"I said all along that I wanted eight to ten thousand, so I am a little disappointed that we didn't reach that. I know this place can draw people. We have been fighting to get this program back and now it is back. I will continue to say, 'you need to support it now". The best way to support is to be here in the stands. If they want this to be a strong program, we need to do our part and put an exciting product on the mat, but everyone has to do their part. The fans have to be here. To me, it is not good enough to hear about it the next day or even watch it on FloWrestling. You need to get your body in the stands and support this team."
"Just the Ticket to Build Our Community" - The Bulldog Scholarship Fund gives Bulldog alumni, fans and friends the opportunity to support Fresno State Athletics and the student-athletes who inspire them. For information about how you can support the Bulldog Scholarship Fund, please visit www.bulldogscholarshipfund.com or call 559-278-7160.