When the Gophers were upset by Hofstra in last season’s opening match, it didn’t take them long to rebound.
The team didn’t lose another dual match all year, finishing 20-1 and winning both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
Facing No. 12 Nebraska at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion tonight, they find themselves in a similar situation after losing 18-13 to No. 2 Iowa State on Sunday. The loss snapped a 23-match winning streak which spanned more than a full calendar year.
“It was a huge wakeup call last year to lose to Hofstra, and I think the Iowa State loss will help get these guys fired up,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “We definitely have to wrestle with more emotion, and I think Sunday’s match taught us a good lesson about that.”
Eggum also said the team might perform better without such a long winning streak in the balance.
“We definitely feel like we had a burden lifted,” he said. “Now we just have to concentrate on starting that streak again.”
The most anticipated match of the night comes from No. 3 Jayson Ness, who will wrestle defending national champion and top-ranked Paul Donahue in the 125-pound division.
The two faced twice last season, and the sophomore Ness won both times. This year the two met again at the All-Star Cup in November and it was Donahue who came out on top.
“I’m pretty pumped to go out there and face him again,” Ness said. “I let him control the pace a little too much last time, but I’m going to be a lot more aggressive this year.”
Another important match will come in the heavyweight division, where the Gophers will have to take on No. 14 John May from Hutchinson.
Redshirt freshmen Ben Berhow and Joe Nord have split time at the heavyweight position, but Berhow is expected to start. Nord hasn’t wrestled since being pinned in duals against both Northern Colorado and Northern Illinois the second weekend of the season.
“Joe and I are going to split time this year, I know that,” Berhow said. “I’m sure we’ll both wrestle in California this weekend. I just want to prove that I can be the guy in the time that I’m given on the mat.”
Berhow wrestled last against Iowa State and could have won the match with a victory, but lost 7-2.
Whoever ends up wrestling in the heavyweight spot will have a difficult time living up to the legacy of their predecessor, Cole Konrad. Konrad was a four-time All-American and two-time national champion.
“I know we definitely have some big shoes to fill from Cole, but I think it’s a good thing,” Berhow said. “I had to stand with Cole everyday last year, so I’m not intimidated by any heavyweight in the country. I’ve wrestled with the best there is.”