Three compete for spot at 149-pound weight class

Aaron Blake

Just over a week ago, Minnesota wrestling true freshman Jeremy Anderson was looking forward to taking a redshirt year and gaining some experience before he would battle for a spot as a starter in a few years.

But the 149-pounder was prematurely thrust into that role during last weekend’s National Duals in Cleveland, forfeiting his redshirt year in the name of trying something new for the team.

When Anderson defeated 149-pound regulars Keri Stanley and Thomas McAlpine in practice matches early last week and earned the starting nod in Cleveland, it was just the latest in a series of attempts by the 12th-ranked Gophers (6-3) to find what works best this season.

“We’re just trying to move some kids in and out and get the best kid competing there,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “We had a guy on redshirt, and we wanted to see how he could do. So we put him against the two older guys and he ended up doing better.”

Anderson is the only 149-pounder to pick up a dual meet win for his team.

McAlpine, a redshirt freshman, got the nod at 149 for the team’s first dual of the season, falling to fourth-ranked Trent Paulson of Iowa State on Dec. 12.

Stanley, a junior, then started the next three duals, going winless versus Arizona State, No. 2 Nebraska and Portland State.

The two combined to score just 19 points in those matches while allowing a total of 68 points.

And then Anderson got his chance.

The Thief River Falls, Minn., native dropped his first four matches of the weekend before beating Pennsylvania’s Rob Hitschler in the seventh-place match. Still, the performance was encouraging for him and his coaches.

“The coaches just told me to go out and make a name for myself, not worrying about wins or losses,” Anderson said. “I only got one victory, but I was able to wear most of those guys down.”

So, for now, Robinson has declared Anderson to be “the man” at 149 pounds, although nothing is set in stone.

Anderson admits that the step from high school to Division I is quite a jump in such a short time, but he said he is “living a dream” since receiving the unexpected shot.

“It was a big deal,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t expecting to make the team for a year or two. But they gave me the opportunity, and I took it.”

Robinson admitted that although he has had to try different wrestlers at different weights before, this situation is more troubling than past ones.

In recent years, the Gophers have been able to fall back on a handful of All-Americans to compensate for certain weaknesses on the bout sheet.

But on the final day of competition last weekend, Minnesota did battle with just one in the lineup – 125-pounder Bobbe Lowe.

Senior 165-pounder Jacob Volkmann could be out for a month with an eye socket injury, and a blow to the head kept 197-pound national champion Damion Hahn from participating in Minnesota’s final two matches.

So even as Anderson’s progress sheds some light on the Gophers’ situation at 149 pounds, uncertainty is still the only certainty for a team just two years removed from a national championship.

“It’s going to be whoever’s doing the most for the team,” McAlpine said. “Anderson might be it right now, but you don’t know if in three hours you’ll be the one.”