Wrestlers refocus on Big Ten foes after duals loss

Following its heartbreaking loss to Iowa State in last weekend’s National Duals, the Minnesota wrestling team arrived back from State College well past midnight on Sunday.
Less than six hours later, Leroy Vega and the Gophers (12-1, 2-0 Big Ten) were back on the mats, practicing.
Vega said Minnesota knew they still had to be better prepared for the meets this weekend and they didn’t want to waste any time.
“We were (at Bierman) at 6:45 in the morning working out, when we just got off the plane five and a half hours earlier,” the sophomore Vega said.
Last weekend’s loss to the Cyclones snapped the Gophers’ 23-straight dual-meets win streak, but it didn’t snap Minnesota’s confidence.
“We’re still looking to make steps and strive toward the national tournament,” Vega said.
Iowa State was the toughest opponent the Gophers faced all season. It will also be the toughest meet for Minnesota until top-ranked Iowa comes to town for the last dual meet of the season in late February.
So what does that translate into for the Gophers? The third-ranked team will be favored in their next five meets, which are all against lower-ranked teams.
At least that’s what coach Robinson said in a quiet, confident manor.
“Yeah, we should win all of those,” he said.
But in order for that to happen, the Gophers won’t be able to afford to let every match come down to heavyweight Brock Lesnar, like it did last weekend.
“We’re having flashes of brilliance at different weights,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to gain momentum and bring consistency. We’re up and down, up and down. We need everyone to come together at the same time.”
On Friday, when 15th-ranked Wisconsin travels up to the Sports Pavilion, Minnesota will be poised to begin a new streak.
The Badgers (8-1-1, 1-0) are led by Don Pritzlaff, who is ranked third in the nation at 165 and will give Minnesota’s Brad Pike a tough match.
On Saturday, 23rd-ranked Indiana will bring its show to campus. Fifth-ranked Pat Cassidy is the star for this year’s Hoosiers (9-4, 2-0). Cassidy will go up against Vega at 125.
The Gophers haven’t run into Indiana in a dual meet since 1994, when Minnesota defeated the Hoosiers 22-9 in Bloomington.
Following this weekend’s two battles, Minnesota will have two weeks to prepare for its next meet at Michigan.
Robinson said the break will give his team a chance to rest physically and mentally, as well as more time to get ready for the Iowa match that Robinson admitted the Gophers are already looking forward too.
“The Iowa meet will be a great motivation to get us ready for the Big Ten and nationals,” Robinson said.

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