Gophers end dual season with upset over Buckeyes

The No. 9 Gophers took care of No. 5 Ohio State 23-18 at the Sports Pavilion.

Justin Bronson was not going to lose the last dual-meet match of his career.

The senior squeaked out a thrilling 2-1 win over Ohio State’s John Weakley, helping No. 9 Minnesota (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) beat the fifth-ranked Buckeyes 23-18 in their final dual-meet of the season Sunday.

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Big ten Championships
what: Wrestling
when: Saturday, March 8
where: Williams Arena

“I’ve worked so hard the last five years to get to this point, and with my family here, I was determined to get a win in front of them,” he said.

Bronson walked onto the team five years ago, joining a recruiting class hailed as the top in the country by wrestling experts.

Bronson said he was impressed there were still 10 seniors left from the original class of 13.

“It’s been a lot of growing for all of us,” he said. “A lot of growing pains, but we’re all better wrestlers and people because of this program.”

Though he still receives only a partial scholarship from the team, Bronson emerged this season as the team’s top 197-pound wrestler, starting 17 of their 21 meets. He has gone 8-9, including a big win late in the Iowa meet to keep the team in contention.

“Justin’s a Minnesota kid and he’s always wanted to be a big part of this team,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “He’s living his dream this year.”

The 10 Gopher seniors were honored, along with their families, at intermission.

Six of those seniors started the meet: Bronson, C.P. Schlatter, Gabe Dretsch, Jeremy Larson, Mack Reiter and Rivera, and all but Larson and Rivera won their matches.

“They picked each one of us in that class for a specific reason, with the goal of winning a national championship,” Schlatter said. “We got that done last season, and hopefully we can do it again this year.”

Reiter, ranked ninth, was upset twice last weekend in the Gophers’ losses to Illinois and Wisconsin. On Sunday, in front of a large family contingent up from his hometown of Gilbertville, Iowa, Reiter came out in a flurry, clinching the Gophers’ victory with a technical fall.

Reiter was leading by 13 points with the match coming to an end, but scored a two-point takedown as time expired to score the extra point nail down the technical foul and grab and extra point for the Gophers.

Minnesota did end the meet on a low note, however, as No. 5 Manny Rivera was upset and No. 3 Dustin Schlatter, the 2007 national champion, was pinned for the first time in his career.

“We still have a lot more things to accomplish this season and a lot of things to improve on,” C.P. Schlatter said, “but for dual-meets, we went out on a good note.”