Gophers wrestling falls to Ohio State

Despite returning two starters, Minnesota wasn’t able to secure a victory.

Senior Mitch McKee grapples with Ohio State's Luke Fletcher at the Maturi Pavilion on Sunday Jan. 26. The Gophers lost 21-13 to the Buckeyes.

Parker Johnson

Senior Mitch McKee grapples with Ohio State’s Luke Fletcher at the Maturi Pavilion on Sunday Jan. 26. The Gophers lost 21-13 to the Buckeyes.

Nolan O'Hara

Despite returning Gable Steveson and Brayton Lee to the lineup, the Gophers wrestling team dropped their second straight dual, falling to Ohio State 22-13 on Sunday. 

After earning a ranked victory in his dual debut against Michigan State, 157-pound Ryan Thomas opened Sunday’s dual with another win for the Gophers. He earned a 3-2 decision over Ohio State’s Elijah Cleary to give Minnesota an early 3-0 lead. 

The Gophers lead didn’t last long, as 165-pound Bailee O’Reilly lost a 12-4 major decision and 174-pound Devin Skatzka took a heartbreaking 2-1 loss as No. 8 Kaleb Romero landed a last minute takedown.

“The guys did some good things, and got exposed in a few areas,” head coach Brandon Eggum said. “It can be good, I know we can make some improvements and we need to win a couple of those matches.”

The Gophers fell even further behind when No. 1 Kollin Moore notched a technical fall over the Gophers’ 197-pound Hunter Ritter. At the halfway point, Minnesota found themselves down 12-6. But out of the break, Steveson, the No. 1 heavyweight in the nation, returned for the Gophers after missing the previous two duals with an injury. Steveson quickly made his presence known, landing a takedown in the first 10 seconds of his match against No. 23 Gary Traub. He kept his momentum going through all three periods as he notched the 13-2 major decision, cutting the Gophers deficit to two. 

“I feel real good tonight. Things didn’t go our way as a team. We had it,” Steveson said. “It’s a long season, we got to forget about some of the losses real quick, have short term memory and I think next week will be a good bounce back for us. And just keep it rolling from there.” 

At 125 pounds, Patrick McKee was able to retake the lead for Minnesota. His 5-1 victory put the Gophers up 13-12. After the Gophers lost at 133, the dual came down to two top-10 matches at 141 and 149 pounds. No. 5 Mitch McKee quickly landed a takedown on No. 1 Luke Pletcher, but Pletcher fought back, taking 16-6 decision and putting the dual out of reach for the Gophers. Trailing 19-13, Minnesota would need a pin from Lee to keep their hopes alive. 

Lee wasn’t able to get it for Minnesota. He nearly landed a late takedown against No. 6 Sammy Sasso, but Sasso beat him to it, securing a third period takedown for the 4-2 decision. 

“In a dual like this against a high ranked team, you got to win some of those close ones,” Eggum said. “It would of been nice for Brayton [Lee] to win that. I love the way he was moving his hands and attacking. There was a lot of offense by him. It would nice to be rewarded.” 

The Gophers return to the mat on Friday Jan. 31 at Purdue.