First trip to Iowa City seen as springboard

Minnesota wrestles at Iowa tonight and returns there for Big Tens in three weeks.

Matt Anderson

After spending the first 2 1/2 months of the season away from the wrestling mecca of Iowa City, Iowa, Minnesota’s wrestling team will head into the hostile quarters of Carver-Hawkeye Arena twice in the next month.

Today at 7 p.m., seventh-ranked Minnesota will wrestle against No. 12 Iowa in what Minnesota said it hopes can be a springboard for the Big Ten Championships there in March.

After Minnesota (8-6, 2-2 Big Ten) wrestles at Iowa, the Gophers will return home Sunday for a 2 p.m. dual versus the Buckeyes at the Sports Pavilion

“This is Iowa, and Carver-Hawkeye is a hostile place to wrestle, and it’s the same place where we’re going to go down there for Big Tens,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “It’s a great thing, because we’re going to go into a hostile environment at the Big Tens. We’ve got to be prepared, and we have to do something.”

The level of success that Iowa’s wrestling program has achieved during the last 30 years means that tonight’s meet will also carry more weight than the standard Big Ten dual.

“We don’t really like each other,” 141-pound junior Tommy Owen said. “It’s one team that you can go to a tournament and you’re most likely not even going to look at an Iowa guy.”

With just two weekends of duals remaining, this weekend looms all the more important for a team looking to hit its stride and get all of its best wrestlers into the starting lineup.

Roger Kish, ranked sixth at 184 pounds, will miss his third weekend in a row with a skin infection. Robinson also indicated that other weight classes were going to be without starters this weekend, but would not go into specifics.

Adding continuity to the lineup is Owen, who will make both starts at 141, where he had been splitting time with sophomore Quincy Osborn. The start against Iowa will be Owen’s fifth consecutive match getting the starting nod.

The other spot where the Gophers have employed co-starters, 197, will see redshirt freshman Matt Koz make both starts ahead of senior Jon Duncombe.

Robinson said that based on this weekend’s performance, the coaching staff will decide whether Koz and Owen have assumed full-time starting roles or if the Gophers will alternate starters in the final dual weekend of the regular season.

But for senior 125-pounder Bobbe Lowe, ranked sixth at his weight class, success this weekend will be decided by what happens tonight.

“It’s kind of bragging rights,” Lowe said. “This is the dual that we want to win.”