The No. 5-ranked Gophers wrestling team shocked No. 4 Penn State twice this weekend, capturing third place at the prestigious National Duals tournament in Lincoln, Neb.
Minnesota’s Tim Hartung (ranked No. 7 at 190 pounds) and Jason Davids (No. 2 at 142 pounds) led the Gophers, adding five wins each to their already impressive individual records.
Hartung dominated the 190 pound weight class, downing No. 2 Lee Fullhart (Iowa) and No. 5 Brian Picklo (Michigan State) to continue a perfect 20-0 overall record.
“I just wanted to continue to help the team and focus on my wrestling, and not anything else,” Hartung said.
Davids, now 21-1, defeated Penn State’s Clint Musser (No. 11) twice. Davids also recorded a pin and a major decision on the tournament.
Gophers coach J Robinson was very pleased with the Gophers’ performance this weekend. “Overall, the team wrestled really well,” he said. “We came together and won some very big matches.”
Minnesota breezed through the first round match against Missouri State, displaying relentless pressure in a 48-0 victory. Chad Kraft (150 pounds), Josh Holiday (158), Zac Taylor (167) and Hartung (190) all recorded pins for the Gophers.
Next came Penn State. Minnesota confidently handled the Lions 21-10, scoring seven decisions in the second round.
Gophers Brandon Paulson (No. 5 at 118 pounds) suffered an ankle injury in his 8-5 win over Penn State’s Jeremy Hunter. This was a blow to Minnesota, scheduled to meet No. 1 Iowa on Saturday night in the semifinals.
The rival featured four top-10 ranked Minnesota wrestlers, and six from Iowa. In each team’s third and final match Saturday, the Hawkeyes proved too powerful knocking off the Gophers 23-12.
Paulson tried to wrestle through his injury, but was defeated 9-4. Afterwards, Minnesota forfeited Paulson’s next two matches.
“Brandon’s injury really hurt us especially in the Iowa match,” Robinson said. “It was hard to make up for the six free points we gave them to begin with.”
The loss to Iowa dropped Minnesota out of contention for the National Duals title, and into the consolation bracket.
Despite the team loss, Robinson was pleased with the progress that he saw in his team. Hartung and Brandon Eggum both won overtime victories and Kraft lost by only one point to Iowa’s No. 1-ranked Lincoln McIlravy in the 150-pound match.
“Wrestling Iowa was very good for us,” Robinson said. “We learned a lot that should help us when we meet them the next time.”
Sunday, the Gophers met Michigan State in the consolation round to bid for the third place match. Minnesota defeated the Spartans 28-9.
Consequently, the third place match would pin the Gophers against Penn State for the second time in the tournament. After forfeiting the first match, Minnesota won its next five weight classes going on to take the third place trophy by a score of 19-15.
“We wrestled well under adverse conditions,” Hartung said. “We hung together as a team and pulled out the win in the end.”
The Gopher’s third place finish should move them up in the national rankings, and more importantly, it proves that Minnesota will be a major contender for the NCAA title in March.
“We are right at the thresholds of the top two teams — Iowa and Oklahoma State,” Robinson said. “If we keep progressing like we have been in the past few weeks, we should be right with them come tournament time.”
Note: After defeating the Gophers, Iowa went on to lose to Oklahoma State in the title match 21-13. Oklahoma State should now take over the No. 1 national ranking.