Gophers getting into a groove

The Minnesota wrestling team seems to be hitting its stride at the right time. With such a daunting conference schedule, the Gophers needed a fast start to the Big Ten season and so far, thatâÄôs exactly what theyâÄôve gotten. After steamrolling Michigan State in Minneapolis on Jan. 25 âÄì as of now MinnesotaâÄôs only remaining unranked opponent âÄì the No. 8 Gophers went on the road last weekend and recorded wins over then-No. 16 Penn State and then-No. 5 Ohio State. But with 18th-ranked Michigan and No. 16 Northwestern slated to visit the Sports Pavilion this weekend, and a trip to top-ranked and undefeated Iowa looming on Feb. 15, Minnesota isnâÄôt about to let off the gas. HereâÄôs a look at whatâÄôs happening around Gophers wrestling this week: BierschenkâÄôs clutch wins garner weekly award If not for the performance of junior Gordon Bierschenk, itâÄôs probably safe to say that Minnesota would have been on the losing end of both duals last weekend. The Gophers trailed the Nittany Lions 11-15 on Friday evening when Bierschenk stepped to the mat across from J.R. Brown for the 197-pound match. Late in the third period, he appeared poised for a win by decision, which would have earned Minnesota three points and trim the deficit to one. Instead, with :59 remaining in the bout, Bierschenk pinned the Penn State freshman and vaulted the Gophers to a 17-15 lead they would not relinquish. On Sunday, his 5-2 decision over the BuckeyesâÄô Cody Gardner sparked a string of four consecutive Minnesota decisions that dug the Gophers out of a 16-6 hole for an improbable 18-16 win. The pivotal victories earned Bierschenk Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors, the first of his career. HeâÄôs off to a 3-0 start in the Big Ten and 12-8 on the year in his first season with Minnesota since returning from a two year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq. Safratowich, Ness close in on Minn. history Senior Tyler Safratowich and junior Jayson Ness have an opportunity to wrestle their way into the Minnesota record books during this weekendâÄôs duals. Safratowich, ranked 17th at 157 by Amateur Wrestling News, can become the 35th wrestler in school history with 100 career victories this weekend if he manages to top MichiganâÄôs Aaron Hynes, whoâÄôs fresh off a 7-6 upset of IndianaâÄôs No. 12 Kurt Kisner, and NortwesternâÄôs No. 18 Jason Welch. He currently rests at 98-42 for his career. Meanwhile, Ness needs only two more pins to tie MinnesotaâÄôs career pin record of 51, which is currently held by Billy Pierce circa 1996. Ness already shares the single season pin record of 20 with former Gophers head assistant coach Marty Morgan and has already racked up 14 pins this season. Considering the rarity of pins in college wrestling, itâÄôs unlikely Ness will tie the record this weekend, but itâÄôs almost a foregone conclusion that he will surpass it this season. And with his senior season still ahead, MinnesotaâÄôs career pin record could be quite daunting by the time Ness is finished.