Brancale starts at 133

by Jack White

Redshirt junior Sam Brancale has stepped into the starting role at 133 pounds for the Gophers after being injured for much of last year. 
Brancale has started both the Gopher Duals and the Northeast Duals for the Gophers at 133 pounds and was 4-2 overall at the two events.
“I think [Brancale] is getting some consistency in his wrestling, and that comes with being in the lineup all the time,” head coach J Robinson said. “He’s also up a weight class, where weight isn’t such a factor as it has been in the past, and I think he can concentrate more on his technique and wrestling hard, and I think that has been very beneficial for him this year.”
Brancale started the Gophers’ first dual meet of the season last year, but at 125 pounds. His season was cut short, though, when a shoulder injury sidelined him on Dec. 18.  
Brancale did not return to the lineup until Minnesota played Ohio State University on Feb. 6. He wrestled at 133 pounds when he came back and has stayed in that weight class this season.
“It’s very hard for people to understand how hard it is to [drop] 5 percent of your body weight and then weigh in one hour before and then wrestle a hard match,” Robinson said about making weight at 125 pounds. “It takes a toll on you. I think this weight class is a lot more comfortable for [Brancale], and I think he likes being there.”
The redshirt junior was expected to compete for the starting spot at 133 pounds with redshirt sophomore Nate Thomas, but Thomas is still recovering from an injury. Transfer student and redshirt junior Ben Morgan also wrestles at 133 pounds, but he is ineligible until his second semester, which gave Brancale an easy path to starting.
“It kind of remains to be seen what goes on there,” Robinson said. “At [133 pounds], it’s just Brancale right now. At the semester Ben Morgan will be eligible, he’ll come in, and he’ll be pushing Brancale to stay on top.”
Morgan said he’s known Brancale since they were about 9 years old and wrestled together when they were younger. In the spring, they’ll be competing against each other to start.
“Being able to work out with each other really made us better,” Morgan said.
Brancale won two of his first three matches at the Gopher Duals to start the season. He lost to then-No. 11 George DiCamillo of University of Virginia but won his other two matches of the day.
He finished with a 2-1 record at the Northeast Duals last weekend. He defeated then-No. 9 Mason Beckman of Lehigh University at the event.
Robinson said he has been impressed with Brancale’s performance at his new weight so far. 
“He uses his under hook very aggressively,” Robinson said. “He’s strong, he’s powerful [and] when he puts those things with his technical, he’s a hard guy to stop.”