Gophers knock off top-ranked Cowboys

by Tyler Rushmeyer

Oklahoma State came to the Sports Pavilion ranked No. 1. After Wednesday night’s match, the Cowboys will most likely be watching their opponent take that title.

Third-ranked Minnesota battled Oklahoma State in a back-and-forth contest en route to a 21-15 triumph.

The Gophers were led by junior Gabe Dretsch’s upset over the Cowboys’ Brandon Mason.

Dretsch (174), ranked No. 13 in the nation, used a first period takedown to gain an early 2-0 advantage, which eventually led to a 3-1 decision over No. 8 Mason.

The match gave Minnesota a lead they would never relinquish.

Coach J Robinson said Dretsch’s efforts were critical in Wednesday’s outcome.

“That match was one of the toss-ups going in,” he said. “We had to win that one and Gabe came up huge.”

Dretsch said his first-period takedown gave him a lot of confidence for the rest of the battle.

“I just tried to wrestle with a lot of emotion,” he said. “(The match) got the bench and the crowd into it, and that was pivotal.”

Gophers redshirt freshman Jayson Ness (125), the ninth-ranked wrestler in his weight class, got the crowd of nearly 5,000 fired up early after overcoming a 3-0 deficit to defeat Tyler Shinn 6-3.

Minnesota’s loss of two-time All-American Mack Reiter (133), out with injury, was felt in the 133-pound match, in which freshman Mike Thorn was defeated 10-1 by major decision.

Two of the Gophers’ best – No. 5 junior Manuel Rivera (141) and No. 1 sophomore Dustin Schlatter (149) – followed up the defeat with a major decision and tech fall, respectively, to give the Gophers their biggest advantage of the night at 12-4.

Sophomore Tyler Safratowich (157) was defeated by major decision 11-3, bringing the Cowboys within four, then, Oklahoma State’s two-time defending national champion senior Johny Hendricks (165) stepped onto the mat with a chance to give the Cowboys the lead.

While many might have been expecting a pin against unranked junior Jeremy Larson of the Gophers, it was not to be.

In fact, Larson’s tough effort helped him avoid not only a pin, but a tech fall along the way. He dropped the match 19-6, but it fired up his teammates who had yet to compete.

“That’s Minnesota wrestling,” Robinson said of Larson’s efforts. “Win or lose, you go hard.”

Dretsch won his pivotal match next, putting the Gophers ahead 15-12 before No. 2 Roger Kish’s match-up with unranked Jack Jensen.

Kish took an 8-4 advantage into the third period before things got rough between him and Jensen. After a few back-and-forth slaps, Kish became fed up and forcefully slapped the side of Jensen’s face, giving Oklahoma State a point.

After a no-call on the retaliation, Kish proceeded to take down Jensen twice, the second time pushing him off the mat. Turning to the crowd and “raising the roof,” Kish’s fire power sent the Sports Pavilion into a frenzy as the Gophers could taste victory.

Schlatter said Kish is a fierce competitor and a fun wrestler to watch.

“He’s wrestles intensely,” he said. “It’s a heated rivalry and with the crowd getting into it, things boiled over a bit, but it really got everyone fired up.”

Sophomore Yula Malamura dropped the 197-match 9-2 to Jared Shelton to allow the Cowboys back within three at 18-15.

But Minnesota had the big closer coming in.

Top-ranked senior heavyweight Cole Konrad kept things interesting in his 46th consecutive victory, but held on to defeat Jared Rosholt 3-1 to give the Gophers the huge win and, perhaps, reclaim its No. 1 title.