Gophers rise in polls but lose to top competitors

Jayson Ness and Scott Glasser are a big reason Minn. is row ranked No. 5.

Austin Cumblad

What is there to say about Gophers wrestling as it turns to a new decade and the second half of its 100th season? Plenty, but there are two things especially to keep an eye on during the infancy of 2010: the continued dominance of Jayson Ness and the meteoric rise of Scott Glasser. NessâÄô 19-0 start to his senior season is hardly surprising. Already a three-time All-American in as many tries and MinnesotaâÄôs all-time pin leader , thereâÄôs only the national championship mountain left to summit. No doubt 19 straight wins âÄî with 14 falls âÄî has put him on pace. âÄúI think IâÄôve been wrestling probably the best IâÄôve ever wrestled,âÄù Ness, ranked No. 2 at 133-pounds, said of his season thus far. âÄúI think IâÄôve been improving in all areas.âÄù How much heâÄôs improved will be more obvious Jan. 22 in East Lansing when he wrestles top-ranked Franklin Gomez of Michigan State. Ness has dispatched a number of ranked opponents already this season but Gomez may be the biggest obstacle between him and both a Big Ten and national title. GlasserâÄôs recent dominance, meanwhile, was not as easily foreseeable. The 174 class was one of the few weights not solidified for Minnesota prior to the season, and for early duals, Glasser and Cody Yohn split time until Glasser grabbed the starting spot with a third place finish at the Southern Scuffle and followed that with three straight upsets. In the waning days of 2009, Glasser strung together eight consecutive wins to take third at the Southern Scuffle after dropping his opening round match. He credits that tournament with catapulting him towards his current No. 8 national ranking. âÄúLosing the first match is a nightmare to a lot of people and I really wasnâÄôt happy with myself,âÄù Glasser said. âÄúI said, âÄòAlright, I have nothing to lose right now, IâÄôm just going to go out there and wrestle as hard as I can.âÄô ThatâÄôs what I did, good things happened, and I havenâÄôt stopped doing that since.âÄù The weekend following the Southern Scuffle, the Gophers lost to Iowa State 19-16 in a dual decided by a pin, but Glasser won his ninth straight on that Sunday, upsetting 11th-ranked Duke Burk 7-2. On Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 at the National Duals, Glasser, then ranked 13th, notched three more victories sandwiching a loss to No. 2 Jay Borschel of Iowa. He upset two more wrestlers, No. 9 Dorian Henderson of Missouri and No. 5 Ben Bennett of Central Michigan . But upsets are in the eye of the beholder. On paper, Glasser upset three straight opponents; he expected victories. âÄúI know IâÄôm better than those guys, and I needed to prove that to myself,âÄù Glasser said. âÄúEvery single match that I won gave me more confidence for the next match. I didnâÄôt change my style or anything; it was just my attitude, my mentality.âÄù As for Minnesota as a team, most results during the holiday went exactly as predicted on paper. The Gophers are ranked No. 5 in the most recent National Wrestling Coaches Association poll , moving up from 6th where they have spent most of the season. In just half a month, Minnesota has wrestled top-ranked Iowa, No. 2 Iowa State, No. 3 Ohio State and then-No. 5 Central Michigan. And apart from a sound 25-9 win over the Chippewas, the Gophers have struggled against the nationâÄôs elite teams. They fell to the Hawkeyes, Cyclones and Buckeyes by scores of 28-12, 19-16 and 26-12 . Instead of being discouraged by the results, head assistant coach Joe Russell said facing top teams early in the year provides an important measuring stick and allows the team to diagnose necessary areas of improvement. âÄúItâÄôs a good gauge for our guys to kind of find out where weâÄôre at,âÄù Russell said. âÄúWe got whooped up on a few times, so we know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.âÄù