Plenty of confidence and a shot at revenge with Badgers in town

The Gophers lost to Wisconsin by bonus points earlier this month at the National Duals.

Derek Wetmore

After dropping a close dual earlier this season to its border rival, No. 4 Minnesota will host No. 3 Wisconsin Sunday, looking for revenge.

The two teams met in early January at the National Duals where Wisconsin edged the Gophers (12-3 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) by a 19-17 margin.

âÄúWisconsin is a tough team, but I think the confidence that [we] have hopefully going into this weekend will show on the mat,âÄù assistant coach Brandon Eggum said.

That confidence is inspired by a number of circumstances that seem to tilt the tables MinnesotaâÄôs way in this bout.

The Badgers (9-1-1, 0-0-1) have four wrestlers in the top three at their respective weights, but will likely be without two of them this weekend. Defending national champion Andrew Howe (No. 2 at 165 pounds) and Trevor Brandvold (No. 2 at 197) could miss the dual.

Minnesota, however âÄî itself slightly banged up âÄî feels little sympathy.

Sonny Yohn (197) will likely miss his eighth straight dual after suffering a knee injury at the Southern Scuffle. Having him back in the lineup will be a huge boost, and the team is currently targeting next weekendâÄôs dual with Ohio State for his return.

At 165 pounds, Cody Yohn is healthy and wrestling well, and with 2nd-ranked Howe out of the lineup, he could capitalize.

âÄúCody wrestled him very well last time so that could be a turnaround in our favor,âÄù Eggum said.

Captain Zach Sanders agreed.

âÄúIf heâÄôs out, and Cody takes care of business, I donâÄôt really see how they could beat us,âÄù Sanders said.

Another matchup Eggum mentioned was at 184, where Kevin Steinhaus dropped a 3-2 decision at the duals. Eggum said Steinhaus wrestled WisconsinâÄôs Travis Rutt very well and could have won.

âÄúThatâÄôs one we feel we can win [this time],âÄù he said.

With the teams being so evenly matched on paper âÄî they each won five matches at the National Duals âÄî the dual may again come down to bonus points. Sanders, who recorded a major decision in the last meeting, said he knows thatâÄôs expected of him again.

âÄúWeâÄôve got to step it up for our team and just score some bonus points,âÄù Sanders said. âÄúThose bonus points are huge. The matches weâÄôve lost have come down to bonus points, so thatâÄôs essential to capitalize if you get a chance to score them.âÄù

The Gophers are coming off of a weekend sweep of Purdue and Illinois, while Wisconsin âÄî which has wrestled only once in the Big Ten âÄì just beat Nebraska at home to boost its national ranking to No. 3. Minnesota also moved up one spot as the two teams leapfrogged Oklahoma State in the rankings.

One final reason the Gophers feel confident that they will come out on top this time? They have the luxury of wrestling at home.

After dropping an early season bout to then-No. 2 Oklahoma State, Minnesota has not lost a dual within state lines (1-0 at the Sports Pavilion, 3-0 in Rochester for the Northern Quad).

Eggum said even the dual with Oklahoma State consisted of some minor upsets in which guys wrestled well on their home mat. Steinhaus, Scott Glasser and Cody Yohn all recorded upsets against the Cowboys.

âÄúItâÄôll be nice to [wrestle at home],âÄù Eggum said. âÄúI think the guys have wrestled really well at home this year. Having the fans behind them should make a big difference.âÄù

While it will be nice to have home fans at the dual, Sanders noted that wrestlers tend to not put too much stock in location, because at the national tournament âÄî where it all counts âÄî nobody has a true home advantage.