Gophers bounce back with two victories in Illinois

After falling to Iowa last weekend, the Gophers bounced back by winning two duals, beating Illinois and Northwestern.

Freshman Gable Steveson at 197 competes during the match against South Dakota State on Sunday, Nov. 25 at Maturi Pavilion.

Elle Moulin

Freshman Gable Steveson at 197 competes during the match against South Dakota State on Sunday, Nov. 25 at Maturi Pavilion.

David Mullen

Minnesota’s wrestling team (10-2, 3-1 Big Ten) got back on the winning path in Illinois over the weekend as the Gophers toppled Illinois 26-15 Friday, and Northwestern 29-12 Sunday afternoon. 

“It was a really good team effort overall while being on the road, and I saw some good growth,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. 

After falling to Iowa last weekend, the Gophers left the state of Illinois with some pride and momentum. 

“Momentum’s pretty big in this sport, and when your team’s feeling really good, it really helps,” said Gophers redshirt senior Brandon Krone. 

On Sunday, in the second dual of the weekend, the Gophers began down 6-0 to Northwestern after a forfeit at the 125-weight class. Minnesota’s Sean Russell did not participate this weekend due to injury. 

However, momentum swung in favor of the Gophers. Ethan Lizak, No. 9 in the 133-pound weight class, pinned Northwestern’s Colin Valdiviez in the opening period. After starting down 6-0, the dual was tied 6-6. 

“Today, [Lizak] had a different aura about him,” Eggum said. “He was good, he was good.”

In the 141-pound weight class, Mitch McKee followed in Lizak’s footsteps by pinning his opponent in the first period, doing so in only 58 seconds.

After being taken down early in the match, 149-pound Tommy Thorn bounced back and took down his opponent three times. He went on to win the match after a 6-2 decision. 

The hot streak ended there for the Gophers as No. 7 in 157-pound Steve Bleise was topped by No. 3 Ryan Deakin in a 9-4 decision. The 165-pound Carson Brolsma also fell to Tyler Morland 9-7, shrinking a 15-6 lead to 15-12 in the dual.

The Gophers got back on track with 174-pound Devin Skatzka, who is ranked 11th in the nation. He earned his 19th victory of the season after getting a near fall with under a minute left in the final period. He also was awarded riding time and won with a 6-2 decision. 

Krone, in the 184-pound weight class, scored big early with a takedown and a near fall in the opening period and never looked back. Krone won off a technical fall, putting the Gophers ahead 23-12. 

In the 197-pound weight class, Dylan Anderson outlasted the Wildcats’ Zack Chakonis in an 8-4 decision. 

To end the weekend undefeated, top-ranked Gable Steveson in the heavyweight class went onto win his 22nd-straight victory with a 9-5 decision. 

Victory over the Illini

The Gophers opened the weekend against the University of Illinois and they were ready.

The dual began with Lizak going head-to-head with the Fighting Illini’s Dylan Duncan.

After two near falls in the opening period for Lizak, he took a dominating 8-1 lead at the period’s end and never looked back. He won in a 12-9 decision.

No. 7 McKee was taken down by No. 4 Mike Carr 5-2 for his second loss of the season after falling behind by two takedowns in the second period.

Thorn, however, got the Gophers back on track. He won by a major decision of 11-0. Bleise followed by pinning his opponent and giving Minnesota a 13-9 lead in the dual. 

Brolsma upset No. 19 Joey Gunther with a slight 3-2 victory after a takedown in the second period gave him the extra point needed. 

Stevenson rounded things off by pinning his opponent Deuce Rachel in 1:47. 

The Gophers continue Big Ten play against Wisconsin on Jan. 25 in Madison, Wisconsin.