Wrestlers have solid results with tougher opponents

We last left the Gophers grapplers with a convincing 48-0 win over Portland State back in early December.
Since then, the Minnesota wrestling team has faced stiffer competition, but the results have been just the same.
Over the past two weekends the Gophers defeated No. 8 Nebraska, No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Penn State and Ohio State.
Third-ranked Minnesota now finds itself with a 9-0 record in dual meets (2-0 in the Big Ten). The Gophers have won 20 straight dual meets, a streak that takes them back to last season. It’s the longest win streak in school history.
The results have been the same all season, but the attitude the Gophers take to the mats has changed.
Coach J Robinson said the major difference he has seen in his team over the past few weeks doesn’t involve the wrestlers’ physical approach to the meets, but their mental one.
“They’re no longer looking for things to happen (on the mats),” Robinson said. “They’re making things happen by fighting through every match and making their opponents quit.”
The Gophers began their 2000 Big Ten campaign the same way they left their 1999 run: with complete dominance.
With what Minnesota accomplished over the past two weekends, Robinson said he feels the team is definitely on the track for success.
“(The wrestlers) can feel it, sense it and they want more,” he said. “We’re on course not to where we want to be, but where we need to be.”
That quest to repeat as Big Ten champions began on Friday. The Gophers got their Big Ten season started right with a 29-9 win over Penn State in State College.
The Gophers won the first four matches — highlighted by a Chad Erikson pin at 141 pounds — and never looked back.
Then on Saturday Minnesota had an equally impressive 31-12 win over Ohio State in Columbus.
The Gophers began the afternoon by winning the first five matches and finished the Buckeyes off with pins by All-Americans Brandon Eggum (184) and Brock Lesnar (heavyweight).
Minnesota completed its nonconference season the week before with wins over two of the best teams in the country.
After handing Nebraska a 29-13 loss at the Sports Pavilion, the Gophers went down to Stillwater, Okla., to defeat Oklahoma State 19-15.
Minnesota’s win over the Cowboys ended Oklahoma State’s 73 dual-match home win streak. The Cowboys hadn’t lost at home since 1996.
The Gophers travel back to State College this weekend for the National Duals. Minnesota finished in second place at last year’s National Dual in Iowa City.

Notes from the mats
The Gophers will be represented by three wrestlers at the NWCA’s All-Star Classic at Michigan State on Feb. 7.
Leroy Vega, Eggum and Lesnar will travel to East Lansing for the competition which includes the two highest-ranked wrestlers at each weight class from around the nation.

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