Ranked wrestlers come up short in losses

The Gophers wrestling team came into this weekend with four wrestlers ranked in the top five in their weight classes.

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what: Wrestling
when: 6:30 p.m., Friday
where: Evanston, Ill.

That looks good on paper, but the ranked wrestlers didn’t come through for the Gophers, who lost 20-13 to No. 1 Iowa on Friday night and 18-14 to No. 3 Oklahoma State Sunday afternoon.

No. 3 Manuel Rivera, No. 5 Mack Reiter and No. 5 Roger Kish combined to go 0-6 over the weekend.

Kish was upset in both matches, and they were both turning points in the meets. His 5-2 loss to No. 8 Phil Keddy of Iowa gave the Hawkeyes (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) a 17-10 lead with two matches remaining and all-but assuring their win.

On Sunday, after the Gophers had rallied from a 4-9 deficit to take a 14-9 lead, he lost to unranked Jack Jensen 5-3 to bring Oklahoma State (13-2-1, 2-1-1 Big 12) to within two.

It marked the first time all season that a ranked Gophers wrestler has lost to an unranked opponent this season.

Kish hadn’t wrestled since Dec. 6, but head coach J Robinson said the time-off wasn’t the reason for his struggles.

“Yeah he hasn’t wrestled in a while but he’s had three weeks to prepare for these meets,” he said. “He just didn’t get it done.”

No. 3 Manuel Rivera also had a decisive loss in the Iowa meet. He was beaten 6-4 in overtime by No. 9 Dan LeClere, giving Iowa a lead in the match that they wouldn’t give back.

Rivera had dominated LeClere 10-1 in their previous meeting at the 2006 Kaufman-Brand Open.

No. 5 Mack Reiter was the only one of the three not to be upset, as he had to face the top-two ranked wrestlers in his weight class ñ No. 2 Joe Slaton of Iowa and No. 1 Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State.

Reiter, a native of Gilbertville, Iowa and one of the first blue-chip recruits to leave the state for college, was handled by Slaton, losing 8-3. He left the mat fighting tears.

“Mack will be alright,” Robinson said. “He always gets hyped up for Iowa and I know it’s tough on him to lose like that, but he wrestled an alright match.”

Reiter lost 8-2 to Scott on Sunday.

The only ranked wrestler to find success over the weekend was sophomore Jayson Ness, who continued his dominance of the 125-pound division. Ranked first in the country, Ness scored major decisions over Iowa’s No. 3 Charlie Falck and Oklahoma State’s No. 16 Tyler Shinn.

Ness improved to 28-0 on the year, and his 29 consecutive wins is the second-longest active streak in Division I wrestling. Josh Glenn of American University is No. 1 with 34 consecutive wins.

“That Ness is something else; we knew that coming into the match,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “We thought Charlie would have a pretty good chance against him, but Ness just went out and did everything right.”

The No. 4 Gophers had an opportunity to regain the No. 1 ranking in the nation with a pair of wins this weekend, but at 11-5, and 2-1 in the Big Ten, they are in danger of falling out of the top-10 and may end up with the second-most losses for a Gophers team in over 10 years.

“Yeah, it really hurts everyone in that locker room to lose like this,” Robinson said. “We want it to hurt. It should hurt. But, that being said, we’ve only lost to very good teams this year.”

Minnesota’s five losses have all come against teams ranked in the top-10 at the time.

“We have plenty of work to do, we know that,” Robinson said. “It’s good to get these things fixed before the tournament, but they need to be fixed. We need to wrestle with more energy and passion. And we need to get better results from our ranked guys.”