Gophers wrestlers see little downtime over break

The winter holiday was anything but a break for the Minnesota wrestling team. The University campus may have been quiet, but the Gophers grapplers were hard at work. Their holiday? Ten dual meets âÄî six of them against ranked opponents. Their holiday travels? Lincoln to battle Nebraska, Dallas for the Lone Star Duals and Cedar Falls, Iowa for the National Duals. Minnesota started the busy month ranked No. 7 and 3-0 in duals. It left ranked No. 11 and 9-4. Nonconference Duals The Gophers began their holiday duals with a pair of stout opponents, No. 3 Nebraska on Dec. 21 and No. 13 Oklahoma State on New YearâÄôs Day. Sophomore Mike Thorn, ranked No. 7 at 141 pounds, got Minnesota off to a good start in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers with a pin at 3:47, but the Gophers failed to sustain the momentum. Nebraska rattled off six straight wins, so by the time Minnesota sophomore Joe Nord upset No. 12 Tucker Lane in the heavyweight bout and cut the deficit to 21-9, it was essentially too late. The Gophers didnâÄôt need wins from redshirt freshman Zach Sanders at 125 and junior Jayson Ness at 133 âÄî they needed pins. Then-No. 7 SandersâÄô technical fall victory of 22-7 over Andy Pokorny and then-No. 6 NessâÄô 9-0 major decision over Matt Vacanti werenâÄôt enough, and Minnesota fell 21-18. Oklahoma StateâÄôs visit to Minneapolis wasnâÄôt as close. Starting the day at 157, the CowboysâÄô Neil Erisman recorded a 6-4 upset over Gophers senior Tyler Safratowich, ranked No. 14 at the time. Minnesota would never catch up. Though redshirt freshman Sonny YohnâÄôs 8-5 decision over No. 20 Jared Shelton brought the Gophers within one, Oklahoma State pulled away for a 23-13 victory. Lone Star Duals Two days after the second straight dual loss, however, Minnesota was able to redeem itself in a big way with a perfect performance at the Lone Star Duals in Dallas. The Gophers put up commanding victories over Army (26-15) and Air Force (41-3) before edging Harvard (28-20). Ness and Sanders were a perfect 3-0 on the day, while sophomore Ben Berhow recorded a pair of major decisions at 285 pounds and junior Chris McPhail landed two pins at 197 pounds after both men sat out against Army. National Duals Minnesota rounded out its busy break with a trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the National Duals on Jan. 10-11, where it wrestled five teams âÄî four of them ranked âÄî in two days, compiling a 3-2 record and finishing sixth. An opening round victory over Buffalo was returned in kind by No. 1 Iowa, which knocked off the Gophers 27-7 in quarterfinals. But No. 11 Minnesota bounced back with wins over 9th-ranked Wisconsin and 14th-ranked Penn State to reach the fifth place dual. It wasnâÄôt to be on Sunday, however, as the Gophers fell 25-12 to No. 6 Ohio State. Sanders was again red hot, winning all five of his matches and notching two pins on the weekend. Nord and Berhow, who shared time at heavyweight, combined for a successful weekend as well. Nord went 3-0, including a 4-3 decision over No. 16 Cory Morrison of Ohio State. Berhow recorded a win and a loss, but the win was over WisconsinâÄôs 6th-ranked Kyle Massey.