Kish back in stride as Minnesota wins a pair

The senior 184-pounder was coming off two tough losses but got back on track this weekend.

Trevor Born

No. 5 Roger Kish got his first two wins in more than a month this weekend as the fourth-ranked Gophers beat No. 10 Michigan State 33-12 Friday and unranked Purdue 32-8 Sunday.

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Illinois
what: Wrestling
when: 7 p.m., Friday
where: Williams Arena

Kish’s major decision over Adil Kolovic of Northwestern (5-7, 1-3 Big Ten) was his first since injuring himself at the National Duals on Dec. 8.

He returned to the lineup last weekend, but with disappointing results. He lost to No. 8 Phillip Keddy of Iowa and was then upset by unranked Jack Jensen of Oklahoma State in overtime.

It was the first time this season that a ranked Gophers wrestler had lost to an unranked opponent.

“We understand that Roger isn’t in his prime shape,” head coach J Robinson said. “I know that because Roger Kish in his prime shape can, and will, beat anybody. But he has to get back into that shape physically, and also with his confidence. He knows he’s the best 184-pounder out there.”

Robinson said that he believes Kish will be a national champion for the Gophers (13-5, 4-1 Big Ten) this year if he can improve his confidence and stay committed to his conditioning.

As a sophomore Kish nearly won a title, making an improbable run through the NCAA tournament and losing by just one point in the national championship. He took third place last season.

Kish came into this season considered by many to be the top 184-pound wrestler in the country, and was No. 2 in the USA Today/InterMat/NWCA preseason rankings.

But this season he has started just 6-4 in dual-meets – he finished 20-1 last season – and has missed over half of the dual-meet season. Robinson said he’s confident Kish will turn it around, though.

“Anybody who sees Roger every day in practice knows he can do special things,” Robinson said. “It’s just a matter of him taking responsibility for getting over that hump and getting that national title.”

Ranked wrestlers win

Kish wasn’t the only highly-ranked wrestler to struggle last weekend. No. 5 Mack Reiter and No. 3 Manuel Rivera also lost both of their matches.

This weekend the trio of Kish, Reiter and Rivera won all six of their matches, scoring bonus points in five of them. Bonus points are awarded when one wrestler wins by more than eight points or pins their opponent.

Top-ranked Jayson Ness increased his winning streak to 31 matches and gained his 18th pin of the year, just two short of the Gophers single-season record.

In all, ranked Gophers wrestlers went 11-1 on the weekend. The only wrestler to lose was No. 11 Gabe Dretsch in a close, 5-4 match to Purdue’s (10-5, 2-3 Big Ten) unranked Nick Corpe.