Grapplers 7th at National Duals

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s ninth-ranked wrestling team finished in seventh place at last weekend’s National Duals in Cleveland, finishing the tournament without its top two wrestlers.

Senior 165-pound All-American Jacob Volkmann was left off the bout sheet after injuring his eye socket in practice the week before, and senior 197-pound national champion Damion Hahn missed the team’s final two duals after suffering a blow to the head against Northern Iowa’s Sean Stender.

The Gophers defeated Cleveland State 35-3 in the first round, lost to No. 8 Michigan 30-6 in the quarterfinals, beat No. 19 Northern Iowa 24-16 in the consolation second round, lost to No. 13 Oklahoma 37-9 in the consolation quarterfinals and downed No. 20 Pennsylvania 22-15 in the seventh-place match.

“It made us realize that it’s not always just about skills and technique,” sophomore 157-pound Matt Nagel said. “Some of us need to dig down and find a little pride.

“We’ve been in the finals of this tournament five of the last seven years, and that’s what hurts most about taking seventh place.”

Assistant coach Joe Russell said the team continues to emphasize a growing process for its young squad, despite the fact that it continues to suffer disappointment.

Two missing seniors and a true freshman making his first start at 149 pounds made the Gophers even younger than usual.

First-ranked Hahn finished his match versus sixth-ranked Stender, winning 10-8 after suffering the injury. But team doctors held him out of the final two matches, and the team was unable to fill the vacant spot with a substitute, forfeiting six points each against the Sooners and the Quakers.

Junior Casey Flaherty filled in for Volkmann at 165 and went 1-4. Volkmann could be out about one month with the injury.

True freshman Jeremy Anderson became the third Minnesota wrestler to start at 149 pounds this season, finishing the weekend 1-4 as well.

No. 11 Nagel, who was named Big Ten wrestler of the week earlier this month, continued his strong performance, going 4-1 and losing only to the Wolverines’ second-ranked Ryan Bertin.

Redshirt freshman Cole Konrad, ranked seventh at heavyweight, went 3-2, losing to Michigan’s sixth-ranked Greg Wagner and Pennsylvania’s third-ranked Matt Feast.

“All of this is just a stepping stone for more important things like the Big Tens and Nationals,” Russell said. “Ultimately, we’ll trade losses here and there for progress.”