Wrestling Weight Classes Preview

David McCoy

Minnesota’s wrestling team (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) cruised through the regular season, winning its first 19 duals before falling 19-15 at Michigan on Feb. 17. The top-ranked Gophers’ loss enabled the previously third-ranked Wolverines (16-2, 8-0 Big Ten) to win the Big Ten regular-season title as well as secure the nation’s No. 2 ranking. But when it came time to find out whether Minnesota would be able to bounce back from its first taste of adversity, the team responded with its biggest win of the season, trouncing then-No. 18 Michigan State to the tune of 41-3. The win over the Spartans provides some momentum for Minnesota as it wrestles this weekend at the Big Ten Championships at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. Michigan cleary is Minnesota’s biggest obstacle in its effort to reclaim the Big Ten crown after taking second the past two years. Now the task at hand for the Gophers is showing whether they truly are the team that ran unbeaten for 19 matches – or merely the team that faltered to their conference foe. The Daily previews each of the weight classes:

125
R-FR. TRAVIS LANG
UNRANKED (24-14, 3-4 BIG TEN)
SEVENTH SEED
TOP SEED: JOE DUBUQUE INDIANA

After battling with junior Andrew Domingues for the starting spot through the fi rst three months of the season, Lang has been Minnesota’s 125-pound starter since Jan. 22. He lost his first match to Iowa’s Lucas Magnani 9-5, and then won three in a row – though not by much. After a win by forfeit at Ohio State, Lang beat Penn State’s Tim Haas and Wisconsin’s Collin Cudd, each by one point, before losing his past four. Granted, three of those losses were against wrestlers ranked in the top four. With the Gophers eyeing a shot at a national championship, the pressure is on for Lang to qualify for the NCAAs. 133
SO. MACK REITER
NO. 3 (25-3, 6-0 BIG TEN)
TOP SEED
TOP SEED: REITER

Last year’s 133-pound Big Ten champion as a redshir t freshman, Reiter is the favorite to win it again as the class’s top seed. He went unbeaten in the Big Ten season this year and his only losses overall came against No. 1 Shawn Bunch of Edinboro and Oklahoma State’s Nate Morgan, ranked No. 3, twice. Reiter pinned top-seed Mark Jayne to win the title last year, but avoided having to wrestle Wisconsin’s Tom Clum, to whom he lost twice last season. He missed his showdown with Clum this season when he missed two duals with a skin infection. But odds are, Reiter will have to face the 3-seeded Clum this time around. 141
SO. MANUEL RIVERA
NO. 13 (24-11, 5-2 BIG TEN)
SEVENTH SEED
TOP SEED: JOSH CHURELLA MICHIGAN

Minnesota came into the season unsure of its 141-pound starter, but it didn’t take long for the coaches to fi nd their man. Rivera started every Big Ten dual for Minnesota except the loss to Michigan, after proving himself at National Duals with a 9-4 upset win over No. 6 Daniel Frishkorn of Oklahoma State. Both of Rivera’s Big Ten losses came a month ago in back-to-back matches against eighth-ranked DeWitt Driscoll of Penn State and unranked Ed Gutnik of Wisconsin. But Rivera has been on a tear lately, winning three in a row – the first of the streak by major decision and the last two by fall. Think he’s peaking at the right time? the weight classes: and Wisconsin’s Collin Cudd, each by one point, before losing his past four. Granted, three of those losses were against wrestlers ranked in the top four. With the Gophers eyeing a shot at a national championship, the pressure is on for Lang to qualify for the NCAAs. 149
FR. DUSTIN SCHLATTER
NO. 1 (34-1, 7-0 BIG TEN)
TOP SEED
TOP SEED: SCHLATTER

Comparisons to some of the greatest wrestlers of all time already have been voiced for topranked, 149-pound true freshman Dustin Schlatter. Schlatter stepped onto the college scene and immediately dominated, winning his first 12 college matches with only one decided by decision. In fact, of Schlatter’s 34 wins this season, only 10 have been by decision, and half of those were against top-five wrestlers. His only loss was to Central Michigan’s fi fth-ranked Mark DiSalvo, whom he later beat by a score of 4-1. Although 149 is a stacked class this year, with three wrestlers ranked in the top four and seven in the top 13, Schlatter winning a Big Ten Championship in his rookie season would surprise nobody. 157
SO. C.P. SCHLATTER
NO. 4 (31-5, 7-1 BIG TEN)
THIRD SEED
TOP SEED: ALEX TIRAPELLE
ILLINOIS

C.P. Schlatter hasn’t had quite the same run this season as his younger brother Dustin Schlatter, but he’s been pretty close. Aside from two losses to No. 14 Kevin Ward of Oklahoma State at the UNO Open early this season, C.P. Schlatter’s only losses have come against top-six wrestlers – No. 2 Trent Paulson of Iowa State and a pair to No. 6’s in Cornell’s Dustin Manotti and Wisconsin’s Craig Henning. Despite struggling most of the year, C.P. Schlatter still took fourth at the Big Tens last year after falling in the fi rst round. To whom? This year’s top seed, Alex Tirapelle. 184
SO. ROGER KISH
NO. 8 (30-4, 7-1 BIG TEN)
THIRD SEED
TOP SEED: ERIC BRADLEY PENN STATE

Kish finally is star ting to wrestle at the level of expectations that went along with being the nation’s top recruit in 2002. After an injury-plagued season last year that resulted in a sixthplace Big Ten fi nish, Kish comes into this weekend having won 12 of his past 13, with his only loss at the hands of top-ranked Eric Bradley of Penn State, a tight 3-2 match. With No. 2 Ben Wissel of Purdue involved as well, the 184- pound weight class could feature some of the most competitive wrestling of the tournament. 197
SO. MITCH KUHLMAN
UNRANKED (14-13, 3-4 BIG TEN)
EIGHTH SEED
TOP SEED: TYRONE BYRD ILLINOIS

This year has been all about taking one for the team for Kuhlman, who took over the 197-pound starting job the same time Lang settled in at 125, despite weighing in at only 180 pounds most of the season. All of Kuhlman’s wins have come against unranked wrestlers this season, but that might not be that much of a problem this weekend, with a wide-open Big Ten which features only one wrestler (Penn State’s Philip Davis) ranked in the top eight. However, the bad news: Davis majored Kuhlman 13-1 when the pair met earlier this year. Like Lang, Kuhlman needs only to focus on qualifying for the NCAAs. HWT
JR. COLE KONRAD
(33-0, 8-0 BIG TEN)
FIRST SEED
TOP SEED: KONRAD

Konrad’s 33-match winning streak is the fourth-longest in school histor y, and he would pass Willy Short for third if he wins the Big Ten title as expected this weekend. Minnesota’s other defending Big Ten champion, Konrad has won 62 of his past 63 matches, with his only loss coming in last year’s NCAA finals to two-time NCAA champ Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State. After beating Mocco three times this year, it appears this weekend is merely a pit stop along the way to a Konrad NCAA title. Michigan’s third-ranked Greg Wagner, who Konrad beat 1-0 in the Gophers’ lone loss for Wagner’s only loss this season, is the only wrestler with an outside chance of challenging Konrad at the Big Tens. 165
SR. MATT NAGEL
NO. 8 (26-8, 7-1 BIG TEN)
THIRD SEED
TOP SEED: RYAN CHURELLA MICHIGAN

The team’s lone senior, Nagel’s Big Ten season has mirrored that of Minnesota’s as a whole, with his only Big Ten loss coming to Michigan’s top-ranked Ryan Churella. Nagel lost that match by disqualification for stalling, sending three critical bonus points to the Wolverines that the Gophers couldn’t make up. It was the second match in a row Nagel lost due to stalling points. He’ll need to fi nd his offense this weekend if he wants to secure needed points at 165 for Minnesota. With top-seeded Churella sure to bring in points for Michigan, Nagel can’t afford to falter in his last Big Ten Championships. 174
SO. GABE DRETSCH
NO. 9 (24-12, 3-5 BIG TEN)
EIGHTH SEED
TOP SEED: JAKE HERBERT NORTHWESTERN

Dretsch’s Big Ten season hasn’t gone quite how he’s wanted it to this year, and with three of the nation’s top-four wrestlers in this weekend’s tournament, his for tunes aren’t likely to change. But Dretsch beat one of those wrestlers, No. 4 R.J. Boudro, in the thrashing of Michigan State – his fi rst win against a ranked Big Ten wrestler of the season. He’ll need to build on his sudden streak of momentum if he hopes for any success this weekend.