Wrestlers match up well at Big Tens

When it comes to winning a wrestling tournament, every individual performance is crucial to a team’s success.
So when the second-ranked Gophers hit the mats at Purdue for the 2000 Big Ten championships this weekend, Minnesota will be expecting top performances from all 10 weight classes.
That means everyone from Leroy Vega at 125 pounds to Brock “The Rock” Lesnar at heavyweight, every single Gophers wrestler will have to contribute if the team wants to repeat as conference champs.
Minnesota coach J Robinson certainly likes where Minnesota stands — especially in terms of seeding.
“Our seeding is good. Some of our guys have really established themselves (at their weight class),” Robinson said. “They’re excited about it, and when the time comes they’ll be ready to wrestle.”
That time is Saturday.
But before the meet starts at Mackey Arena, here’s a look at what each Gopher will be going up against in West Lafayette, Ind.

Leroy Vega
No. 3 at 125 pounds
Big Ten seed: 3
Vega finished third at last year’s conference tourney, and is seeded the same this year. Why didn’t the sophomore move up? Both wrestlers seeded higher than Vega are from the Big Ten — Jeremy Hunter of Penn State and Jody Strittmatter of Iowa.

Brett Lawrence
No. 12 at 133 pounds
Big Ten seed: 4
Lawrence is ready for his first Big Ten tourney, and it won’t be an easy one. The junior has three Big Ten foes ahead of him, led by Iowa’s Eric Juergens.

Chad Erikson
No. 12 at 141 pounds
Big Ten seed: 4
Erikson was injured at last year’s tourney and finished eighth. He’ll be looking for personal redemption this weekend, but it won’t be easy. Northwestern’s Scott Schatzman and Iowa’s Doug Schwab, who are ranked first and second in the nation, lie in Erikson’s path.

Jared Lawrence
No. 3 at 149 pounds
Big Ten seed: 1
Just a freshman, Lawrence is already the best of the best in his class. If he wins it all this weekend, Lawrence will become the first Gophers freshman at any weight to win a conference championship since Keith Nix in 1988.
His toughest competitors are Mike Zadick of Iowa and Adam Tirapelle of Illinois.

Luke Becker
No. 9 at 157 pounds
Big Ten seed: 2
After losing to top-ranked T.J. Williams of Iowa two weeks ago, Becker will get his chance for redemption this weekend. A defeat of Williams will give the Gophers freshman a Big Ten title, too.

Brad Pike
No. 11 at 165 pounds
Big Ten seed: 2
As a junior, Pike is entering his first Big Ten tourney. But this weight class is weak with Big Ten wrestlers — only Wisconsin’s Don Pritzlaff owns a top-10 ranking.

Delaney Berger
No. 18 at 174 pounds
Big Ten seed: 6
Berger, a senior, has the toughest Minnesota draw. He’ll have to pull off a couple of upsets if he wants to go out with a bang. His top opponents: Gabe McMahan of Iowa and Kole Clauson of Wisconsin.

Brandon Eggum
No. 2 at 184 pounds
Big Ten seed: 1
Along with the Gophers, Eggum will be looking to repeat at the Big Tens, too. His closest challenge is Nate Patrick of Illinois, who’s ranked fifth nationally.

Owen Elzen
No. 9 at 197 pounds
Big Ten seed: 4
With a four seed, Elzen is sandwiched between a gaggle of Big Ten wrestlers. Eight conference grapplers are ranked in the top 13, led by No. 3 Nick Muzashvilli.

Brock Lesnar
No. 3 at Heavyweight
Big Ten seed: 2
Coming off his only loss of the season (to Iowa’s Wes Hand), Lesnar enters his first tourney as an underdog — on paper anyway. If Lesnar goes after Hand early, he’ll bring home his second consecutive Big Ten title.

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]