No. 2 Iowa State next up for U wrestlers

Aaron Blake

After last weekend’s seventh-place finish at the Las Vegas Invitational, Minnesota’s wrestling coaches want to light a fire under their squad as it enters its dual meet season.

And it better not require Target Center’s pyrotechnics.

The 10th-ranked Gophers will battle No. 2 Iowa State at 7 p.m. Friday in the biggest production of the season. The match will include commentators, spotlights, interview footage on the video boards and, of course, some fireworks.

“It’s good for the guys,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “It’s a little bit more big-time. They’re used to meets where it’s quiet and there are not a lot of people.”

And the atmosphere is not the only aspect of Friday night that can be described as “big time.”

The Cyclones, who are undefeated in seven dual meets, have already beaten then-No. 2 Lehigh and then-No. 1 Iowa this season.

Nick Passolano’s pin of the Hawkeyes’ Cole Pape at 165 pounds on Sunday iced the latter victory, which was Iowa State’s first in 30 duals versus its in-state rival.

Robinson said the Cyclones are a dark horse, and right now they have the momentum. His youthful team, on the other hand, has its sights on the end of the year, when it hopes to return to a form more characteristic of Minnesota wrestling.

But don’t expect the Gophers to concede the match in the name of progress.

“Obviously, we’re supposed to win, and that’s the main emphasis,” 133-pounder Quincy Osborn said. “For me, I also want to go out there and make sure I wrestle intense and push a guy. So even if I do lose, I’m making it hard on the guy.”

Robinson said this intensity and emotion were missing from his wrestlers’ disappointing showing in Las Vegas – almost as if they were just going through the motions.

The team is bruised and battered from three tournaments in four weekends, but the coaches felt it was important to wrestle in a lot of matches before the dual season began.

“We’re real banged up right now, and that affects you physically and mentally,” 141-pounder Tommy Owen said. “And, especially when you’re slumping, anything that tugs on the rope a little bit more is going to hurt.”

So while most teams have already begun their dual seasons, the Gophers will limp into theirs against a tough opponent.

Even if they cannot pull off the upset, they still hope they can take something away from Target Center on Friday.

“I’m definitely excited to get out in front of the home crowd at Target Center,” Osborn said. “It’s going to be crazy. I think the whole team’s going to be excited, and I really believe that we’re going to wrestle with a lot more emotion.”

Hahn good to go

Robinson said defending 197-pound national champion Damion Hahn will be fine to wrestle Friday. Hahn has struggled with a rib injury since the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 22.