The top-ranked Minnesota wrestling team got a rude awakening Saturday, dropping its first dual match of the season before rebounding to win its final three.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Greeley, Colo.
The Gophers dropped the 125 and 133 matches to No. 11 Hofstra in close fashion and, despite a convincing tech fall and pin by top-ranked Dustin Schlatter (149) and Cole Konrad (HWT) respectively, they were defeated 18-17.
Assistant coach Joe Russell said Minnesota was not sufficiently prepared to face such a tough opponent.
“They’re a real solid team and they took the close matches that we usually thrive in,” he said. “We needed that little extra and we didn’t get it.”
Konrad, the top-ranked heavyweight who returned to action this weekend with three victories, said the team’s inability to jump out on top cost the Gophers the close match.
“They tried scoring early and holding us off, and they did that real well,” he said. “It really was a wake-up call.”
Konrad said the team was given a verbal thrashing by the coaching staff following the close defeat.
“We came out flat and didn’t wrestle our style,” he said. “From that point on, the freshman wrestled harder and the older guys started putting people away.”
Minnesota responded to the disappointing defeat with a 24-9 defeat of No. 12 Central Michigan, in which the Gophers took the first four matches.
The match was highlighted by the performance of redshirt freshman Jayson Ness (125), who defeated the favorite, No. 9 Luke Smith, 9-5.
The upset was a big one for Ness, who has done well solidifying the 125-pound spot.
Minnesota followed up the victory with another lopsided contest, defeating American University 32-10.
The story of the match was the performances of the younger Gophers wrestlers. Ness picked up his second victory of the day, while sophomores Tyler Safratowich (157) and Yura Malamura (197) picked up tech falls. It was Malamura’s first victory in a Minnesota uniform.
The Gophers finished the day with another convincing win, 28-12 over No. 14 Penn.
Ness finished on a high note, picking up his third consecutive victory with a 17-5 major decision over Matt Eveleth.
With Schlatter’s 15-0 over Rob Hitschler in just over three minutes, he concluded his undefeated tournament, outscoring his opponents 38-1, while picking up two tech falls.
Junior Roger Kish (184) also turned in a successful performance, posting a perfect 4-0 record with a pin and major decision.
Despite the team’s strong finish, head coach J Robinson said he was extremely frustrated by the weekend’s performance.
“We weren’t ready to wrestle. It’s that simple,” he said. “We got lulled into this feeling that everyone is going to lay down for us because we’re No. 1 and it’s just the opposite.”
Robinson said the team, particularly the older wrestlers, has a lot to work on before Friday’s duals in Colorado.
“They wrestled with no emotion this weekend,” he said. “They’ll have to change their attitude and get hungry as we go on if they want to stay on top this season.”