Wildcats, Boilers provide fodder for healing Minnesota

Matt Anderson

A week after opening its Big Ten dual season with two home losses, Minnesota’s wrestling team went on the road in search of a return to the winning side of the ledger.

Northwestern and Purdue proved to be what the team needed.

The seventh-ranked Gophers (8-6, 2-2 Big Ten) defeated the 15th-ranked Wildcats 28-10 on Friday in Evanston, Ill., and followed it up Saturday with a 29-12 win over the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind.

“We wrestled with a lot more intensity against Northwestern than we did against Michigan and Michigan State (last weekend),” redshirt freshman 174-pounder Gabriel Dretsch said. “We went out there, and we wrestled seven minutes, balls to the walls, as hard as we could go. Nobody gave up.”

Against the Boilermakers (7-10, 1-4), the Gophers were buoyed by pins from second-ranked heavyweight Cole Konrad, junior 141-pounder Tommy Owen and third-ranked 133-pounder Mack Reiter.

Reiter had two pins on the weekend, but his lightweight counterpart, fifth-ranked 125-pounder Bobbe Lowe, ran into trouble Saturday.

After beating 11th-ranked John Velez of Northwestern on Friday, Lowe fell 8-7 to unranked Brandon Tucker of Purdue on Saturday, dropping his season record to 27-4.

While Dretsch also went 1-1 on the weekend, the Gophers were able to take more positives from his split results.

Dretsch made his return to the lineup after being out since Dec. 29 with an injury.

In the eight dual meets after Dretsch was injured, Josh McLay, Jeremy Larson and Nik Lentz combined to go 1-7 at 174 and gave up bonus points in four of those matches.

“This gets me more mentally focused and physically in shape to wrestle at Big Tens,” Dretsch said. “I only had two practices in me before I came out here, so every match will help me out.”

Dretsch’s return solidified the 174 spot, but starters at 141 and 197 were still up in the air after the weekend.

Redshirt freshman Matt Koz, who made both starts at 197 because co-starter Jon Duncombe was sidelined with a knee injury, was unable to take advantage of his opportunity.

Koz did not score an offensive point in either of his two matches, losing 3-0 to 14th-ranked Matt Delguyd of Northwestern and 6-3 to Purdue’s Nathan Moore.

The 141 spot did not become any clearer either after Northwestern forfeited the weight Friday and Purdue wrestled backup Ben Sprunger against Owen on Saturday.

“The fact that (Owen) got a pin and scored a lot of points before he pinned him is a good statement that he’s making progress,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “I’d liked to have seen him or Quincy (Osborn) go against their better guys, but that didn’t work out.”

But though the team was unable to find its postseason starters at 141 and 197, the weekend was still able to brighten Minnesota’s outlook.

“Everybody’s kind of feeling good right now,” Reiter said. “Last weekend, we had a few guys out. It ain’t going to happen again, and we’re going to be right there at the end.”