LINCOLN — Nebraska heavyweight Spencer Johnson said he is almost recovered from knee surgery. That was good news for the Huskers on Friday night at the NU Coliseum.
And it was bad news for No. 5 Illinois, which had its streak of five straight dual wins snapped by Johnson in the next-to-last match. Johnson’s 3-1 win over Chris Lopez carried the 14th-ranked Huskers to an 18-15 dual victory, sending 1,365 fans and his teammates into a frenzy.
It was Nebraska’s third straight dual win over a rated Big Ten opponent.
Johnson, who took a 1-0 lead into the final period of his match, got another point when Lopez, weary from Johnson’s intense pressure, was assessed a one-point penalty for stalling. When Lopez finally escaped, he was still a point behind. A riding-time bonus point gave Johnson the final 3-1 margin.
“Spencer really wrestled with great intensity,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning said.
Although lighter than most heavyweight wrestlers, Johnson, who is at 205 pounds, “wrestles heavier than he looks,” Manning said. “He’s a brick wall.”
Johnson said he was oblivious to the frenzy in the Coliseum as his match wound down.
“I was so focused on the match I had no idea,” said Johnson, who won 23 matches last year at the 197-pound weight class. “I feel like I wrestled smart.”
The summertime knee surgery has limited his action this year. His first match of the season came last Friday at Michigan, and his first win came last Saturday at Northwestern.
“I’m still coming back (from the injury),” Johnson said. “I’m not completely there yet, but God will see me through it.”
Johnson said he was confident that he would be able to ride Lopez in the third period.
“You have to keep up the pressure and know it’s a war of wills,” Johnson said.
Johnson pressed Lopez to the mat for almost the entire third period.
Johnson’s win gave Nebraska an 18-9 lead, enough cushion for the victory despite losing six points due to a pin in the last match.
Before Johnson’s victory, Husker fans were treated to an exciting finish in the 184-pound battle between NU’s eighth-ranked John Ihnen and 18th-ranked Tony Dallago of Illinois.
Ihnen went into the third period with a 3-1 lead but lost it when Dallago scored an escape and a takedown to go up 4-3. But Dallago was assessed a one-point penalty with 36 seconds remaining and lost another point to an Ihnen escape with 30 seconds left.
Husker Robert Kokesh, ranked No. 4, ran his record to 25-1 with an 8-3 decision over eighth-ranked Jordan Blanton at 174 pounds. Other ranked Huskers — No. 19 Ridge Kiley at 141 pounds, No. 12 Jake Sueflohn at 149 pounds, No. 4 James Green at 157 pounds — also won decisions.
Nebraska will face another ranked Big Ten foe when it travels to No. 1 Penn State for a 1 p.m. match next Sunday.
Individual results: 133: Daryl Thomas, UI dec. Shawn Nagel, NU, 10-8. 141: Ridge Kiley, NU, dec. BJ Futrell, UI, 3-0. 149: Jake Sueflohn, NU, dec. Caleb Ervin, UI, 8-1. 157: James Green, NU, dec., Matt Nora, UI, 9-4. 165: Conrad Polz, UI, dec. Tyler Koehn, NU, 10-4. 174: Robert Kokesh, NU, dec., Jordan Blanton, 8-3. 184: Josh Ihnen, NU, dec., Tony Dallago, UI, 5-4. 197: Mario Gonzalez, UI, dec. Caleb Kolb, NU, 4-3. Hwt.: Spencer Johnson, NU, dec. Caleb Kolb, NU, 3-1. 125: Jesse Delgado, UI, pinned Eric Coufal, NU, 6:55.
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