Regular season almost over

by Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota wrestling team is invading borders this weekend, taking its perfect conference record into Wisconsin, then rolling to Iowa.

And barring two upset losses, the top-ranked Gophers will have locked the Big Ten regular season championship.

Of course, this is easier said than done as Minnesota is set to do battle with the surprising ninth-ranked Badgers before taking on longtime rival, the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes.

Gophers assistant coach Brandon Eggum said no one is looking past upstart Wisconsin with Iowa on the horizon.

“To be honest, we haven’t talked about Iowa yet,” he said. “We need to wrestle well Friday and then talk about wrapping the dual-meet season up Sunday.”

Minnesota sits at 6-0 in the conference and 18-1 overall, giving it a chance to become one of the top regular-season teams in Gophers history.

The last Minnesota squad to go undefeated in the conference went on to win the national championship in 2002. Reaching the 20-win plateau would be just the fifth time in Gophers history.

To accomplish both of these marks, Minnesota will need to take care of business in Madison, Wis., before entering Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on senior and fan appreciation night. Fans there are encouraged to wear black, to complete the “Black Out” effect and further create an intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams.

Gophers redshirt freshman Jayson Ness, who will presumably begin the match at 125 pounds, said the chance to quiet the crowd early is an opportunity he’s excited for.

“Illinois fans were tough, but this is Iowa,” he said. “It was awesome to silence the rowdy crowd down there, and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Wrestling in a hostile environment could be a good thing for Minnesota, said Iowa-native, junior Mack Reiter.

“We thrive in those situations,” he said. “And we’re going to prove it this weekend.

Reiter, a four-time Iowa state high school champion and blue-chip recruit who passed on his favorite team growing up to join the Gophers, said coming home is a mixed bag of emotions.

“It’s nice because I got a lot of friends and family there,” he said. “But it’s also a hassle because they got a lot fans wanting me to fail. I try not to worry about it.”

Individually, the wrestlers know a good weekend is huge for seeding in the Big Ten tournament.

As a team, Ness said two convincing wins will not only send a message throughout the Big Ten, but also the nation.

“We’ve blown out a lot of teams that were supposed to match up well with us” he said. “We need to do it again this weekend to send a strong message to all that follow us.”

Rivera wins award

Junior Manny Rivera was named Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Week on Wednesday for his efforts in defeating two top-10 opponents.

With the wins, Rivera, ranked No. 2, kept his 33-0 record intact heading into the weekend.

The award was the first of Rivera’s career, whose winning streak is good for the fifth-longest in the nation this season and sixth-longest in school history.