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#23 Purdue wrestling ends dual season at #21 Illinois

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The 23rd-ranked Purdue wrestling team wraps up its regular season and Big Ten Dual schedule on Thursday, heading to Champaign, Ill., to take on the 21st-ranked University of Illinois. The Boilermakers are 10-10 in dual competition on the year (1-6 Big Ten), looking to break a six-match conference losing streak and an 11-match slide against the Fighting Illini.

Thursday’s match marks the 82nd meeting between Purdue and Illinois as the Fighting Illini have built a 51-28-2 series advantage after losing to the Boilermakers in the opener, 19-10 on March 11, 1916, in West Lafayette. Illinois is currently tied for its longest win streak in series history, taking the last 11 contests since 1999, including last year’s 29-11 win in West Lafayette, while their first stretch of 11 straight came from 1917 to 1943. The Boilermakers won nine in a row from Jan. 25, 1987, to Jan. 15, 1994, including the only shutout in series history, a 43-0 home win on Jan. 9, 1991. This week’s contest is the 41st time the two squads have met on Illinois’ home turf, with the Illini holding a 28-12-1 advantage in Champaign.

The Boilermakers’ look to match their longest streak of consecutive winning dual seasons on Thursday, as a win would make it four straight for the Old Gold and Black and match the string of winning seasons under former head coach Jessie Reyes from 1996-to-1999. A victory over the Fighting Illini would also make current head coach Scott Hinkel the first coach in school history to post a winning record in his first three seasons, and improve his career mark to 33-25-1 (.560).

Purdue continues to be led in the national rankings by its trio of ranked grapplers in junior captains Luke Manuel and Logan Brown and freshman phenom Cashé Quiroga. Manuel is in the midst of one of the best seasons in school history, sitting sixth in the country at 174 pounds at 35-2 and tied for the NCAA Division I lead in wins. Brown is 15th at 197 and Quiroga is 19th at 125, while junior teammate Colton Salazar has also been in-and-out of the national rankings this season at 157, and is fresh off an upset victory over eighth-ranked Kurt Kinser of Indiana on Sunday.

The Fighting Illini enter the weekend at 8-7 overall and 3-4 in conference duals, holding the No. 21 ranking in the latest NWCA Coaches Poll. They were blasted their last time out, suffering a 38-3 beating at the hands of third-ranked Big Ten foe Ohio State as second-ranked senior John Dergo scored the only win of the contest at 184 pounds. Dergo leads the Illini with his impressive 27-2 record, and is one of five Illinois starters carrying a national ranking. Fellow senior Patrick Bond is ninth at 197, junior Ryan Prater is 14th at 141 and sophomores Jordan Blanton and Eric Terrazas are 13th and 19th, respectively at 174 and 149.

Despite attending several of the same tournaments this season, there has been limited interaction between the Boilermaker and Fighting Illini starters. The only two matches came at Day 2 of the 2009 Midlands Wrestling Championships as Manuel and Blanton met at 174 pounds, and Brown and Bond squared off at 197. Purdue came out on top at 174 with a thrilling 5-4 decision, while Illinois snagged the 197-pound victory, 5-3. A rematch is imminent at 174 pounds between Manuel and Blanton, while Brown may face a different opponent at 197, as Bond is questionable and may be replaced by fellow senior Jake Norman.

Thursday’s match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. (CST) at Huff Hall on the Illinois campus, and admission is free as a part of the Illini’s “Great Escape” promotion. In addition to free entrance, the first 1,000 fans to arrive will receive free food and Illinois will honor its senior class prior to the start of the match. The match will be webcast live at BigTenNetwork.com, while live results will be available at PurdueSports.com courtesy of the NWCA Live Scorebook.

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