Berhow will face toughest test of year

The freshman heavyweight said he has nothing to lose this weekend.

Trevor Born

Freshman Ben Berhow will wrestle the most difficult match of his career Friday when he faces Northwestern’s Dustin Fox, the No. 1 heavyweight in the nation.

The Gophers wrestle No. 10 Northwestern at 6:30 p.m., Friday (5-6, 1-2 Big Ten) in Evanston, Ill., and at unranked Purdue (9-4, 1-2 Big Ten) at noon Sunday.

Head coach J Robinson said the team hasn’t decided who will wrestle against Fox on Friday, but Berhow is the clear choice. Freshman Joe Nord, his main competition early in the year, has struggled this season, going 0-3 with losses to Northern Illinois and Northern California.

Fox, an All-American, is 15-0 and one of the burliest heavyweights in the conference.

“I have nothing to lose against Fox,” Berhow said. “Nobody expects me to go out there and win as a freshman, so if I don’t, I can deal with it. But if I do, that’d be something people would talk about.”

A true freshman, Berhow is one of just three unranked wrestlers expected to start this weekend. He is 4-4 and has yet to beat a ranked opponent.

Assistant coach Mary Morgan said the Gophers staff is happy with Berhow’s progress as a freshman, but that he still needs to win a big match to prove he’s capable of starting as a heavyweight.

“The thing about the University of Minnesota is that, if you’re a freshman, we expect you to do big things,” he said. “If we’re putting you out there, we expect you to win, whether you’re a freshman or a senior. I mean, we have freshmen who are national champions.”

Being weak at the heavyweight position is new for the Gophers (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten), as it has been their strength for the last decade. Their previous three heavyweights – Cole Konrad, Garrett Lowney and Brock Lesnar – combined for eight All-American awards.

Kish back, Schlatter not

No. 5 Roger Kish was upset twice last weekend, once by an unranked Oklahoma State opponent. The senior hadn’t wrestled since Dec. 8 and appeared winded early in both matches.

Robinson said that Kish will likely start both of this weekend’s matches as he tries to get back into shape – the shape that allowed him to take third place in last season’s NCAA tournament.

“We all know you don’t go from 80 percent to 100 percent in one weekend,” Robinson said. “He knows he’s the best 184-pounder out there but he’d been slacking a little with conditioning. He knows that now and he’s making it a priority, which is why I think we’ll see some big things out of Roger.”

No. 2 Dustin Schlatter will travel with the team but won’t wrestle. Schlatter hasn’t wrestled in more than two months since injuring his hamstring against Dec. 6 Nebraska.