Nebraska, Michigan State no match for Gophers

by Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota wrestling team concluded the weekend by bulldozing its second nationally ranked opponent in a span of three days.

Jumping out 15-0 over No. 21 Nebraska, the Gophers never looked back in capturing their 18th consecutive dual-meet victory, 32-6, over the Cornhuskers on Sunday.

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With the win, Minnesota’s combined margin of victory over the two weekend matches was an overwhelming 67-10.

Junior Gabe Dretsch said the team is right on pace to peak at tournament time.

“A lot of teams peak too early,” he said. “We train all season for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, and it’s becoming evident here late in the season.”

The Gophers early advantage in Lincoln, Neb., was the culmination of No. 4 Jayson Ness’ overtime decision at 125 pounds, No. 9 Mack Reiter’s pin at 133, No. 2 Manuel Rivera’s decision at 141 and top-ranked Dustin Schlatter’s decision at 149.

But before intermission, the only surprise of the afternoon occurred in the form of an upset when junior C.P. Schlatter, ranked No. 3 and 9-1 since his return from injury, dropped a 7-4 overtime decision to unranked sophomore Chris Oliver.

The loss made the score 15-3 at the break.

Minnesota assistant coach Brandon Eggum said C.P. Schlatter got away from his game plan late.

“He wrestled hard and got a couple takedowns early,” he said. “In the second period, he got caught off guard a little bit and was frustrated after that.”

The second half of the dual meet began with sophomore Tyler Safratowich’s 10-4 decision over unranked freshman Stephen Dwyer at 165.

Safratowich is now 4-0 since his re-emergence into the starting lineup and is showing off his best wrestling of the season at a crucial time of the year.

Eggum said Safratowich’s efforts of late have been huge to the team’s stability in the stretch run of the season.

“He’s wrestling with a lot of emotion right now,” he said. “On his feet, on the mat, he’s done great in that 165 spot.”

No. 13 Dretsch followed Safratowich’s victory with a major decision over Minnesota-native senior Marc Hardwood at 174. The win was Dretsch’s fifth straight.

Minnesota closed out the afternoon with a high scoring major decision, 23-9 by No. 2 Roger Kish, a loss by sophomore Yura Malamura at 197, and the forfeit of the heavyweight match to senior Cole Konrad, who added to his school-record consecutive victory total, which now sits at 65.

Rivera, who is 33-0 on the season, said the team is wrestling its best at the right time.

“Everyone’s wrestling their own style, their own way,” he said. “At the same time, as a team, we’re coming together when it matters.”

Gophers topple Spartans

Minnesota continued its conference dominance Friday night with a convincing 35-4 win over No. 20 Michigan State.

Thanks to pins by Konrad and C.P. Schlatter and a Dustin Schlatter tech fall, the Gophers racked up big points throughout the meet en route to their sixth consecutive Big Ten victory.

Perhaps the most exciting match came at 165 where Safratowich battled unranked Rocky Cozart.

With Cozart leading 7-1 just over a minute into the match, Safratowich battled all the way back against the visibly tired Cozart to eventually take the match 14-12 in overtime.

Safratowich said he realized he couldn’t panic, something he admitted to struggling with in the past.

“He was broke and just wanted to hang onto the lead,” he said. “I just needed to get him tired and then take him apart in the third period.”

The highlight of the evening came when Konrad took to the Sports Pavilion mat one last time to a roar of applause.

He quickly took care of business, pinning redshirt freshman Alan O’ Donnell at 1:36 for his 64th consecutive victory.

The senior heavyweight said it was a good way to go out.

“I thought about racking up some points before a pin, but that’s a little disrespectful,” he said. “I just wanted to finish it and give the crowd something to cheer about one last time.”