In the third period of his match Sunday, redshirt senior Chris Dardanes found himself down 7-1.
But instead of backing down, Dardanes came back and forced overtime for a sudden victory against Illinois’ Zane Richards.
With the momentum from Dardanes, No. 1 Minnesota went on to defeat No. 9 Illinois 20-19.
Head coach J Robinson said Dardanes’ performance motivated the team.
“Are you just going to give in, or are you going to really concentrate on coming back [to win]?” Robinson said. “I think that’s the beauty of what the fans saw today. If every match in wrestling was like that, we would have an unbelievable sport.”
Dardanes had four takedowns and an escape in the third period, giving him nine total points in the last period, while containing his opponent to just three.
“I tried to go out [in the third period] to win every position no matter what,” Dardanes said. “You [have] to forget about the score and win positions. After a couple points, you get that momentum right away, and it felt good.”
Besides Dardanes, several other Gophers had big wins against the Illini.
Senior Logan Storley, No. 3 in his class, defeated No. 6 Zac Brunson in a 7-3 decision.
Redshirt sophomore Brett Pfarr, who is ranked 11th in the 184-pound class, won a 6-2 decision against No. 20 Nikko Reyes.
Pfarr and Reyes were even throughout their match, holding one another scoreless until the third period.
In the third period, Reyes was penalized, awarding Pfarr one point.
Pfarr then got five more points from a reversal, a takedown and running time.
“The penalty point and running time gave me a two-point cushion, and it allowed me to be a little bit more relaxed and get after [Reyes],” Pfarr said. “In the third, he also took a bad shot, and I capitalized on it.”
The Gophers seemed to have the meet wrapped up with a 20-8 lead with two wrestlers remaining, but the Illini made a serious comeback attempt.
In the 149-pound match — the second to last of the meet — redshirt senior Seth Lange was pinned by Kyle Langenderfer in just the first period.
The pin gave Illinois six points, making the score 20-14 going into the last match.
Without redshirt senior Dylan Ness, out because of the flu, the Gophers had redshirt junior Brad Dolezal take his place in the 157-weight class.
Dolezal went up against No. 5 ranked Isaiah Martinez, and he was defeated in just two periods in a 19-4 technical fall decision.
The technical fall only gave Illinois five points, and the Gophers came away with a narrow one-point victory.
Although the Gophers won against a top-ranked opponent in Illinois, Robinson said that team still has work to do.
“I think with every dual meet, there are some really good things, and then there are some things that you need to work on,” Robinson said. “We are still about six, seven weeks from the Big Ten [championships]. So there [is] still enough time for us to do what we need to do to get there, and that’s the biggest deal.”