Wrestlers gamble on good weekend in Las Vegas

John R. Carter
When Minnesota’s wrestling team heads to Nevada this weekend, it won’t be hitting triple sevens — the Gophers are hitting the mats at the Las Vegas Invite.
The Gophers will be facing some tough competition at this weekend’s tournament, including wrestlers from eight schools ranked in the top 20.
Coach J Robinson said the third-ranked Gophers (2-0) will use this tourney as a way to continue to improve.
“We’re excited about it,” Robinson said. “We’re ready to get out there and see who we’re up against nationally.”
But then again, Robinson said it’s still way too early to begin talking about expectations for the NCAA tournament in March.
“We want to go back to what we can control,” Robinson said. “We want to work on getting better and having some fun. Our goal out there isn’t whether we win or lose, it’s how we compete.
“When you have fun you have enthusiasm. You want to be excited when you step on the mat.”
Top-ranked heavyweight Brock Lesnar is one of the Gophers grapplers that adds excitement to the team. The senior also adds needed leadership for a young Gophers team.
“The young guys are really enthusiastic and have a lot of talent,” Lesnar said. “Right now it’s just a confidence thing (that needs to be improved).”
Lesnar said he hopes the team is able to feed off of the success of himself, Brandon Eggum and Leroy Vega and gain confidence for themselves.
“We’re the backbones this year like Tim (Hartung) and Chad (Kraft) were last year,” Lesnar said.
Come this weekend however, the young guys might have to take a bigger step and fill in for Lesnar.
At practice Thursday, Lesnar was in street clothes. He was limping, favoring his right leg.
When asked about what happened, Lesnar played it off as “nothing” and said he wants to wrestle this weekend. Whether he does or not will be a match-time decision.
While Minnesota’s varsity wrestlers are in Las Vegas, some of the Gophers reserves will head to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the Northern Iowa Open.
“Our young guys will get some good competition,” Robinson said. “It will give them an idea of what they need to do and what we need to work on. It is a good motivating tool.”

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected].