Beware the ‘Bucks; Gophers not taking Ohio State lightly

Still, State has been blown out by Iowa and Michigan in their last two duals, while Minn. has won five straight.

by Derek Wetmore

While it would be easy to overlook an Ohio State team coming off a 27-9 defeat at the hands of then-No. 13 Michigan, Minnesota wrestling assistant head coach Joe RussellâÄôs message to the team this week has been, donâÄôt sleep on the âÄôBucks.

In his words: âÄúYou canâÄôt go to any Big Ten dual and not expect it to be a fight. There are always good guys and itâÄôs never easy.âÄù

Though Ohio State has dropped consecutive duals âÄî before Michigan it took a 33-3 shellacking from Iowa âÄî Minnesota has a tough stretch coming up and needs Big Ten wins wherever it can get them.

âÄúTheyâÄôve got a great tradition,âÄù Russell said. âÄúTheyâÄôre a little bit down this year and redshirting some good guys, but if we can go there and get a win, thatâÄôs going to be a big plus for our program, it doesnâÄôt matter what their record is.âÄù

After traveling to Ohio State on Saturday, the Gophers will be at Michigan the following weekend and then return home for two of the toughest duals of the year. They will close out the season with No. 3 Penn State and Iowa, which handed Penn State its first loss last weekend.

As usual, Zach Sanders (125 pounds) and Mike Thorn (141) are heavily favored on paper going into their matches this weekend.

But the team has a motto frequently repeated by J Robinson: âÄúWe donâÄôt wrestle on paper, we wrestle on the mat.âÄù

Be that as it may, expect Minnesota to get off to a fast start if the dual opens at 125.

Two difficult matches will be at 165, where No. 11 Cody Yohn will face No. 7 Colt Sponseller, and 174, where No. 13 Scott Glasser will see No. 15 Nick Heflin.

Glasser is coming off a minor upset, dropping an 8-4 decision at the hands of WisconsinâÄôs Ben Jordan. HeâÄôs been banged up throughout the year, and injuries might have played a part in SundayâÄôs loss, Russell said.

Glasser, who usually gets progressively stronger as the match goes on, seemed to wear down late.

âÄúIâÄôm hoping that was just a little blip on the radar for Scott and that heâÄôll be back,âÄù Russell said. âÄúHeâÄôs a fighter, and heâÄôll get out there and compete hard, so I think itâÄôs a good test for him to have to come back Saturday and take on a ranked opponent right away.âÄù

Another difficult match for Minnesota could be 133, where freshman David Thorn will wrestle No. 20 Ian Paddock.

Thorn has wrestled some impressive matches this year, but has yet to become a consistent force in the lineup.

âÄúI think it will be a good test for David to step up against Paddock, a ranked wrestler. I look forward to him getting a signature win,âÄù Russell said. âÄúHeâÄôs been knocking at the door, and heâÄôs been wrestling highly-ranked guys well. Starting to get some wins is going to be important here.âÄù

Speaking of freshmen stepping up, Danny Zilverberg recorded a critical major decision Sunday over Wisconsin.

âÄúThat was a real tough guy he wrestled, but he fought hard for the team. It was real exciting to see him stepping up for the team like that,âÄù Russell said. âÄúIâÄôm hoping thatâÄôs a breakthrough match for him and gets him believing. He needs to believe that heâÄôs the guy out there and that he can get on the podium in March.âÄù

With difficult bouts coming up, the Gophers are getting healthy at the right time. Heavyweight Tony Nelson, whose staph infection opened the door for Ben BerhowâÄôs heroics last weekend, is expected to return to the mat.

Also, Sonny Yohn (197), who has been out since the Southern Scuffle, will likely return this weekend. Russell said both Yohn and Joe Nord (197) will travel, and the team will make the decision when they are in Columbus.

âÄúAs of right now, weâÄôre planning on Sonny wrestling Saturday,âÄù Russell said.

Minnesota will need the freshmen in the starting lineup to come up big and return back to full health if it wants to continue to be mentioned in the national title conversation. And with the calendar turning over to February, those conversations are starting to take place.