Minnesota heads to big-time meet in Omaha to defend its No. 1 ranking

Eight Gophers took home individual titles at the Bison Open last weekend in Fargo, N.D.

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota wrestling team will quickly learn how it stacks up against the best in the country this weekend as they head to the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, Neb., the nation’s largest single-day meet.

The Gophers will get an early chance to defend their No. 1 ranking against powerhouses like Iowa, Iowa State and Oklahoma State in the 42-team tournament, which features more than 650 wrestlers.

Coming off a weekend in which it claimed eight individual titles at the Bison Open, Minnesota realizes the coming weekend will present much stiffer competition.

Junior Gabe Dretsch (174), who took the title at the Bison Open, said the weekend’s challenge will be valuable for the team.

“It’s top-notch competition right away,” he said. “It will really give us a good judgment of where we are compared to where we want to be at the end.”

Junior C.P. Schlatter, who also took home a title at the Bison Open, is excited for a higher level of competition this weekend.

“We got a bunch of top-10 teams in this tournament and we’re ready for it,” he said. “It’s a real good test early.”

Both Schlatter and Dretsch pointed out the high performance level of the freshmen wrestlers in the opening weekend.

Freshman Ben Berhow, who shared co-champion honors at the Bison Open along with fellow Minnesota freshman Joe Nord, said although last weekend’s performance was a confidence builder, this weekend will provide a much tougher challenge.

Filling in for senior heavyweight Cole Konrad has given those two freshmen confidence to face off against the best.

“Those are huge shoes to fill, but we’ll do our best until he’s back,” Berhow said. “We can go into every meet confident because we wrestle against the best every day.”

Assistant coach Joe Russell said the team’s conditioning was impressive in the Bison Open and that it is something the Gophers will need to carry over into Omaha.

“I think you could see that our guys had prepared well during the fall,” he said. “We really got the kinks out Ö but last week’s tournament is nothing compared to this one.”

Top recruits signed

The Minnesota wrestling team announced the signing of four recruits for the 2007 season Tuesday.

The list includes four-time state champion Zach Sanders of Wabasha, Minn., two-time Colorado state champion Sonny Yohn, defending Michigan state champion Cody Marcicki, and Kaleb Young, a two-time All-Star honoree and Tentsrike, Minn., native.

Russell said the 2007 crop of wrestlers has great potential.

“We’re real excited about the recruits we signed,” he said. “We think they’ll be great additions to the team and will make an immediate impact.”

All-Star competition

Two Minnesota wrestlers will participate in the 41st Annual National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic on Monday.

Defending national champion Dustin Schlatter and national runner-up Roger Kish, will participate in the Dallas, Tex., event, which pits the two highest-ranked wrestlers in each weight class in a dual meet format.