Gophers coach J Robinson allowed his wrestlers to practice on their own last week, saying everyone on the team had different needs, ranging from technical work to mental relaxation.
Robinson’s hunch was right. No. 2 Minnesota (13-2 overall, 7-0 in the Big Ten) outgunned its opponents over the weekend in two home dual meets. The Gophers whipped No. 7 Illinois 30-6 on Friday, and Ohio State 32-6 on Sunday, to remain udefeated in the Big Ten.
“The guys as a whole looked better after spending the week working out as individuals,” Robinson said. “Everybody seemed to be on the same page, wrestling real intense.”
Behind a technical fall from Minnesota 141-pounder Chad Erikson and a Buckeyes forfeit at 197 pounds, the Gophers claimed eight of 10 weight classes against the Buckeyes. Minnesota lost its first match when Ohio State’s Robert Sessley (133) downed Gophers senior Bart Golyer 4-3.
But the Buckeyes’ three-point advantage disappeared quickly, as Erikson recorded a technical fall in 4:54 against the Buckeyes’ Josh Coe. The Gophers freshman rebounded nicely after being pinned by the Illini’s Carl Perry (No. 6) in 32 seconds on Friday.
“He just got caught. He has to forget about it and get back on track,” said Robinson on Friday. “What he has to do is let it go.”
Coe caught the abuse. Erikson recorded 15 points in the first period, nearly pinning Coe along the way. By the match’s early end, the battered Buckeyes grappler limped off the mat.
The Gophers took seven of the remaining eight matches. Ohio State coach Russ Hellickson benched 197-pounder Brad Todd, saying, “Despite the cat calls from the crowd, I did not want to put a sick wrestler on the mat. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.”
“Minnesota has an awfully aggressive team. They’re everything — powerful, intense, conditioned.”
Despite a win against Indiana on Friday, Hellickson’s team remains at the bottom of conference standings. But the veteran coach refused to be discouraged, because his team entered the weekend with two of its top wrestlers missing from the lineup.
Freshman 141-pounder Keaton Anderson is out for the season, and on Friday 165-pounder Peter Rogers suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him off the mat for at least three weeks.
Rogers has a 23-6 record and was expected to give the Gophers’ Josh Holiday (No. 6) a challenge.
“I don’t have a single guy in the lineup who wrestled with the varsity team for one year,” Hellickson said. “I think we battled until we got tired. I’m the worst loser in the world, but I don’t mind losing if my guys battle hard.”
On Friday, the Gophers showed that a wide talent gap exists between the three top-ranked teams and the rest of the nation’s best. Minnesota took nine weight classes, including a win from 174-pound Delaney Berger, his first since returning to the mat last weekend.
“There’s nothing that can replace real competition,” said Berger after his 12-6 defeat over Illinois’ Ben King. “I’m going to continue taking small steps forward.”
The Gophers resume action this weekend, splitting time at home and on the road. On Friday, Minnesota has two home dual meets, taking on St. Cloud State before going against No. 24 Northern Iowa. Minnesota wraps up the weekend with a Sunday dual meet at No. 6 Nebraska.