Wrestlers cruise to Bison Open win

by Sarah Mitchell

The final tally indicates Minnesota’s wrestling team claimed nine of ten titles at the Bison Open in Fargo, N.D., on Saturday. In reality, though, the 2nd-ranked Gophers went undefeated in their 1998 tournament debut.
Brock Lesnar, who competed without team affiliation, handed Minnesota its only loss. Competing at heavyweight, Lesnar pinned Gophers junior Brent Boeshans in 56 seconds. But the Bismarck, N.D., junior college student will join the Gophers in January after fulfilling his education requirements at Bismarck.
“He’s a pretty unbelievable specimen,” Gophers coach J Robinson said.
Lesnar’s fierceness on the mat resembled that of the entire Minnesota squad. In what Robinson said was “the best they’ve ever done up there,” many Gophers wrestlers defended their individual titles with ease.
“Not really anybody was there,” said All-American Tim Hartung of the lack of competitive non-Minnesota wrestlers. “It was fun to watch the inter-squad matches.”
Four Gophers claimed their third Bison Open title in as many years. The senior Hartung pinned North Dakota State’s Nick Severson at 197 pounds. Junior All-American Brandon Eggum was victorious at 184 pounds with a 9-1 decision over teammate junior Kenny Howard. At 174 pounds, junior Delaney Berger denied North Dakota State’s Steven Saxlund with a 3-1 decision.
Four other Minnesota wrestlers took home their second consecutive Bison Open titles. Freshman Leroy Vega defended his 125-pound title with a 16-5 decision over Ryan Lewis of North Dakota State. Senior Pat Connors earned his second straight Open win and third in four years with a 3-1 decision over Gophers sophomore Brett Lawrence at 133 pounds. With a 2-1 decision over Minnesota senior Troy Marr, sophomore Brad Pike retained the 149-pound title.
Senior Chad Kraft capped off the list of Gophers repeaters, capturing his second title in four years. The All-American defeated North Dakota State’s Wayne Mooney at 157 pounds with a 9-3 decision.
“I’ve never seen them this good ever,” Robinson said. “Our guys were just more tenacious.”
Minnesota’s No. 1 freshman class looked to be a contender on the mat in one of the few tournaments in which they will be eligible to compete as redshirts. Two newcomers, Jared Lawrence and Jacob Clark, found themselves in a title match.
“The freshman class is really legit,” Robinson said. “They are competitive by nature. Usually you have to teach aggression, but we didn’t have to do that.”
Lawrence won a 3-1 decision over North Dakota State’s Jake Thielbar at 141 pounds. Clark was set to wrestle Gophers senior Josh Holiday at 165 pounds, but Minnesota coaches opted for a double forfeit. Instead, Clark and Holiday will share the prestige.
“There was no sense in (Holiday) wrestling Clark,” Robinson said. “(Clark’s) not fighting for a starting spot.”
The starting roster should begin to take form this Saturday as the Gophers’ dual meet season begins. Minnesota travels to North Dakota State in Fargo, N.D. Until then, Minnesota will continue with its two-a-day practices.
“The one thing everyone agrees on is that the intensity level is a lot higher,” Eggum said. “To me, it’s like the wrest-ling room is so competitive right now, that if you are not intense you’ll get beat up. Every-body wants to be on the winning team.”