Gophers face heavy-hitting field at Southern Scuffle

Derek Wetmore

Minnesota (6-1) has been dinged up since before the season began, so the winter break comes at a great time for the team. Following practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the athletes will take a break from wrestling to take care of finals. After finals, wrestlers are free to return home and maintain their own strength programs for two weeks. The team will then rendezvous Dec. 27 and fly to Greensboro, N.C. to compete in the Southern Scuffle Dec. 29-30. Teams like No. 1 Cornell and Big Ten rivals Indiana, Michigan and Penn State will provide meaningful competition for the Gophers in the 25-team field. âÄúItâÄôs an important tournament for us because itâÄôs formatted the same way as the national tournament so itâÄôll be a good dress rehearsal for that,âÄù head assistant coach Joe Russell said. âÄúThey can send the right message to the country that weâÄôre going to be a team to be reckoned with in March.âÄù The Southern Scuffle is an individual tournament which also contains a team scoring component. Weight classes are broken up into 32-man brackets and seeded by a panel to determine rankings. Individuals that advance through the bracket earn points for their team, and can earn bonus points for pins, technical falls and major decisions throughout the tournament. The team will take 15 wrestlers and those not competing will have open tournaments in January to keep in mind over the break. âÄúBeing disciplined at the dinner table is tough, especially around the holidays,âÄù Russell said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to let them know as soon as possible who might go so they can keep weights in check as best they can.âÄù One week after the Southern Scuffle, the team will compete in the National Duals and then open the Big Ten season. Russell said the team would take advantage of spring semesterâÄôs relatively late start to train hard for a couple of weeks before Big Ten competition âÄî and school âÄî picks up. âÄúOnce you get into that stuff, itâÄôs hard to get real good training in because youâÄôre competing all the time,âÄù he said. âÄúThe guys can really focus on wrestling up until spring semester starts.âÄù The break comes at an especially good time for the Gophers, with several key wrestlers battling injury. âÄúThe season is long and itâÄôs a grind in wrestling. There are definitely a few guys on the roster that could use a couple days to heal their bodies up,âÄù Russell said. âÄúIt can work in our favor because after Christmas, weâÄôre pretty much rolling every weekend.âÄù