Gophers snap 0-for-OT skid just in time

Matt Anderson

For Minnesota’s wrestling team, a losing streak was stopped at a time when the Gophers had no margin for it to continue at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships during the weekend.

After 125-pound senior Bobbe Lowe beat Central Michigan’s Luke Smith 5-3 in overtime Jan. 22 at the NWCA National Duals, Minnesota wrestlers dropped their next eight overtime matches to end the regular season.

But at the Big Ten Championships, Minnesota busted out of its slump at the most opportune time.

Redshirt freshmen Gabriel Dretsch, at 174 pounds, and Matt Koz, at 197 pounds, each scored double-overtime wins in their respective seventh-place matches to earn NCAA Championship berths.

Heavyweight sophomore Cole Konrad made it three straight double-overtime wins for the Gophers when he topped Indiana’s Pat DeGain in the bracket’s championship match.

“Having better strategy in overtime is something we’ve needed to work on and have,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “We try to work them so hard so they have plenty of energy in overtime.”

Leaders revealed

A team laden with youth discovered two leaders to fit the team’s complexion during the weekend, coach J Robinson said.

He said both Konrad and redshirt freshman Mack Reiter ascended to the roles with their championship runs at the conference meet.

“Cole sums it up by saying a lot of times he likes to be in a situation where he can win and make a difference for the team,” Robinson said. “Reiter has that (intensity) right now, and that’s good, because some of our other guys will see that and feed off of it.”

Iowa’s setbacks

Since 1967, Iowa has finished in the top three at the Big Ten Championships every year. Equally as impressive, the Hawkeyes had an individual champion at the conference meet every year since 1969.

This year’s championships saw both those streaks snapped, with a distant fourth-place team finish and only 165-pounder Mark Perry wrestling into the championship round. He lost 6-5 to Ryan Churella of Michigan.

Minnesota still there

During the weekend, Illinois stopped a 31-year run of Minnesota or Iowa Big Ten team titles.

But former Iowa coach Dan Gable, whose teams won a conference championship in each of his 17 years as the Hawkeyes’ coach, said the Gophers turned in the most impressive performance of the weekend.

“Minnesota’s the one that really showed from the first match, when I think they upset an Illinois kid at the (149) match, showed they were ready to wrestle,” Gable said. “That kind of helped start them.”