Fifth-ranked Gophers looking to “put a thumping’ on Panthers

by David McCoy

Minnesota’s wrestling team needed 184-pounder Roger Kish to pin Alex Dolly in the last match of the meet, or the then-eighth-ranked Gophers would have lost to then-No. 17 Northern Iowa in Rochester last season.

Along with wins by Cole Konrad, Bobbe Lowe, Mack Reiter and Matt Nagel, the Gophers escaped with a 25-20 victory.

No. 5 Minnesota will wrestle the unranked Panthers again at 7 p.m. today at West Gym in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Nagel said that this time, the outcome will be much different.

“I’ve actually been talking to some of the guys and we’re all real excited,” Nagel said. “We’ve got a chance to really put a thumping on these guys. So I think we’re real excited to show what we got.”

No. 4 Nagel’s matchup against No. 11 Nick Baima at 165 pounds will likely be the showcase match of the meet. After losing in his first 157-pound match to Baima 7-6 in 2003, Nagel has beaten the Panthers junior every time since, including a 6-3 decision last year.

“He’s real good on bottom with his defense to the legs and sometimes I have to throw the legs in and he can leg slip me,” Nagel said. “But I think my defense on my feet has gotten a lot better and I can shut him down that way. Before, late in the period, he’d get in on a single-leg. But I think now, with my defense being a lot better, I’ll be able to score on him.”

Minnesota’s lack of bashfulness about putting “a thumping” on Northern Iowa isn’t completely unfounded.

Aside from both teams wrestling unranked grapplers in four classes, the Gophers outrank the Panthers in every weight category except one ” 174 pounds.

And that just happens to be where Dolly is wrestling this season. That also makes Minnesota’s No. 14 Gabe Dretsch’s match against 12th-ranked Dolly a key battle.

“Not overlooking them, but at this time of the year, I guess we want to go there and wrestle them and get the biggest win we can to set a tone for the rest of the year,” Dretsch said. “And to show the rest of the country that we’re here for business this year.”

Although the bulletin board material might inspire the Panthers, it will surely rile their fans even more.

“They wrestle down in the old West Gym down there where the crowd’s right on top of us,” Minnesota assistant coach Joe Russell said. “And they’ll say lots of nice things about us, so it will be a good environment for our guys to go down to. The more they’re booing, the better we’re doing.”

Who will wrestle where

Russell said Minnesota will continue to wrestle Andrew Domingues at 125 pounds and Manuel Rivera at 141 pounds, just as they did at Saturday’s Northeast Duals.

Mitch Kuhlman will wrestle for Minnesota at 197 pounds after splitting Saturday’s matches with Justin Bronson.

Meanwhile, Bronson will wrestle unattached at the Northern Iowa Open on Sunday, along with about nine other Gophers. Jason Waidzulis and Jeremy Larson will wrestle Saturday in Moorhead.

“Right now we want to give Mitch (Kuhlman) a few chances at 197 to see how he does,” Russell said. “And then, on the flip side, (Bronson’s) young and adjusting to new weight class, (so) we’re thinking a tournament where he’ll wrestle four or five matches is probably a bigger benefit for him than the dual.”