Minnesota looks to put it all back together again

Redshirt freshmen Roger Kish and C.P. Schlatter should return this weekend.

Matt Anderson

For most of this season, Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson has been more like a quilter than a wrestling coach.

Through injuries and battles for starting spots, Robinson has had to patch together 15 different starting lineups for the season’s 16 dual meets.

But this weekend, the Gophers are finally healthy and will wrestle with the lineup they hope to take to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

No. 9 Minnesota (9-7, 3-3 Big Ten) travels to No. 14 Wisconsin for a dual at 7 p.m. today and plays host to No. 4 Illinois at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sports Pavilion.

The meet against Big Ten co-leader Illinois (14-1-1, 5-0-1) is a rematch of the NWCA National Duals semifinal match Jan. 22, which the Illini won 20-15.

Sixth-ranked 184-pounder Roger Kish, who missed the last six dual meets because of a skin infection, and 157 starter C.P. Schlatter, who was out with injury in a pair of dual meets last weekend, will both make their returns to the bout sheet tonight against the Badgers (9-3-2, 2-3-1).

“I don’t think I got too out of shape when I was taking some time off,” Kish said. “Actually, I feel like it kind of helped. It gave me a little break. I got a lot of rest.”

Since Kish was forced out of the lineup Minnesota has not won at his weight class. Jason Waidzulis and Jeremy Larson filled in for Kish, giving up bonus points in four of the six duals. The team also lost both 157 matches last weekend without Schlatter.

Junior Tommy Owen, ranked 20th at 141, has also added stability to the lineup this week. Owen beat sophomore Quincy Osborn in a wrestle-off during Monday’s practice to win the 141 spot he and Osborn had been sharing all season.

“It’s actually a big stress-reliever,” Owen said. “Now you can just concentrate on the match rather than worry about, ‘If I screw up, then am I going to wrestle the next time?’ “

The decision at 141, however, has opened 149 to competition. Danny Williams, who is 1-5 in dual meets at 149, will now be pushed by Osborn, who wrestled at 149 at Iowa last week and lost a 4-2 decision to seventh-ranked Ty Eustice.

The full-time starter at 197 also has yet to be determined. Senior Jon Duncombe and redshirt freshman Matt Koz are still battling to be the team’s 197 for the Big Ten Championships.

Robinson said Koz’s advantage in size and strength might give him the inside track, but a decision won’t be made until after this weekend.

Even with the two weight classes still undetermined, the Gophers are as whole as they’ve been all season. Robinson said he hopes the newly healthy lineup can make a statement against Illinois on Sunday.

“They’ve probably got a little bit of an edge on us because they’ve been together the last month since National Duals, and they’ve got some momentum,” Robinson said. “On the other hand, I think if we can turn a couple matches around, we can be right where we need to be.”