illinois Digital News

Cardani, Byrd Earn First-Place Finishes as Illini Take Fourth at Matmen Open


HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Justin Cardani and Lucas Byrd both earned first-place finishes at the 2021 Matmen Open as they each won four consecutive matches at 125-pounds and 133-pounds, respectively. The Fighting Illini had seven total place-winners in the tournament, scoring 105 team points and earning a fourth-place finish out of 21 teams.

Justin Cardani won four matches in a row to take first place at 125-pounds, winning his first match by major decision, 8-0, followed by three decision victories. The redshirt-sophomore defeated Penn’s Ryan Miller in a 4-3 decision to take the crown at 125-pounds. Lucas Byrd also won four consecutive matches over the past two days, including a pin and tech fall in his first two bouts of the tournament. Byrd would end up winning the 133-pound finals bout over Pitt’s Micky Phillippi in a 5-4 decision.

The Illini had five other placewinners as Luke Luffman finished in third place at 285-pounds, followed by Zac Braunagel who took fourth place at 184-pounds. We Rachal earned a seventh-place finish at 141-pounds, and Christian Kanzler and Danny Braunagel both took eighth-place at 149 and 165-pounds, respectively.

Final Bracket

Illini Place-winners

125- Justin Cardani (1st place)

133- Lucas Byrd (1st place)

141- We Rachal (7th place)

149- Christian Kanzler (8th place)

165- Danny Braunagel (8th place)

184- Zac Braunagel (4th place)

285- Luke Luffman (3rd place)

Team Scores

1) Pitt – 121.5

2) Penn – 118

3) Wisconsin – 117

4) Illinois – 105

5) Rutgers – 94

Up Next

No. 23 Illinois returns to action on Friday, January 14 as the Illini open their Big Ten dual slate at No. 12 Rutgers before the home opener at State Farm Center against No. 1 Iowa on January 16.

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