Wrestlers wrap up undefeated dual season

Anthony Maggio

Sunday was a day of firsts at the Sports Pavilion for the defending national champion Minnesota wrestling team.

To begin, the top-ranked Gophers won their 19th dual meet of the season 27-12 over fourth-ranked Ohio State to become the first Minnesota team ever to go undefeated in the regular season.

Another first came for second-ranked Leroy Vega. The 125-pound senior recorded his first career pin at home over 18th-ranked Jesse Leng.

“(My teammates) make fun of me because I don’t pin anybody,” Vega said after earning his first pin this season and 10th of his career.

On Sunday, Vega became the first Gopher grappler ever to compete in every regular season dual meet, tournament, and invitational in his college career.

Vega’s parents, along with the parents of Chad Erikson and Owen Elzen, were in attendance to see their sons honored for senior day.

“My mom always says she hasn’t seen me pin anybody, so it was real nice to go pin him,” Vega said.

Coach J Robinson said Vega has been constantly teased by his teammates for a lack of pins. He also added Vega had talked before the meet about how great it would be to get a pin in his last home meet.

“He just isn’t that kind of kid,” Robinson said. “A pinner has a different kind of mentality – like (Jacob) Volkmann.

“Volkmann is a pinner. He’d just as soon rip your arm off. Leroy, he’s just happy to beat you. Volkmann wants to tear your arm off and give it back to you.”

Without causing such bodily harm, Volkmann pinned his opponent as well.

Three minutes and 50 seconds into eighth-ranked Volkmann’s match, he pinned unranked Phillip Freeman for the third Minnesota pin of the afternoon.

The second pin came from unranked Nate Baker at 165 pounds.

The redshirt freshman pinned sixth-ranked John Clark with 53 seconds left in the match. Baker has gone 2-1 in the last three duals, making a case for himself to be the starter in the post-season over 12th ranked John Hardy. The two have split time as the starter this season.

“I didn’t expect it to go this good,” Baker said. “I knew it would be a close match, I knew I could pull out a win – but this is a little unexpected.”

Things didn’t go quite as well for the upper-weights, however.

Third-ranked Owen Elzen dropped his first dual meet match of the season 6-4 to fourth-ranked Nick Preston.

Third-ranked heavyweight Garrett Lowney followed with a loss to second-ranked Tommy Rowlands to finish the meet.

Because of these losses, Lowney will likely have the third seed at the Big Ten Championships. Had Lowney won, he probably would have secured a second seed.

Elzen also could drop to the two seed at 197 pounds, but has beaten Preston in two previous meetings this season.

“It’s always nice to have a higher seed, but these guys are veterans,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “They’ll use this as an incentive to get better these next two weeks.”

For now Minnesota will savor its history-making season before preparing to defend the national title it won last season.