Middle weights struggle in season’s first loss

Minnesota won half the matches, but it couldn’t overcome two pins in the middle of the dual.

Minnesotas Tony Nelson (285) tries to pin Oklahomas Alan Gelogaev on Sunday at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers lost 15-22 against Oklahoma State.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota’s Tony Nelson (285) tries to pin Oklahoma’s Alan Gelogaev on Sunday at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers lost 15-22 against Oklahoma State.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota wrestled without three starters Sunday, and Nick Dardanes lost a match slated as an automatic win on paper.

That was a recipe for disaster against the third-ranked team in the nation.

The Gophers fell 22-15 to Oklahoma State in a dual littered with missed opportunities. Still, head coach J Robinson didn’t make any excuses.

“We had a chance … to win,” Robinson said. “We didn’t make it happen, and that’s just not acceptable.”

It was Minnesota’s first loss of the season. Both teams won five matches apiece in the contest, but the Gophers couldn’t recover from two pins in the early bouts.

Wrestling without big guns Dylan Ness and Logan Storley, Minnesota started off hot with two dramatic decisions. But it hit a wall in its third match.

Nick Dardanes entered as the ninth-ranked 141-pounder in the nation and was matched up with Julian Feikert — an unranked opponent with three losses this season.

Dardanes shot in for an early takedown, but he got caught out of position and Feikert capitalized.

Feikert rolled out of Dardanes’ grasp and leaned back to finish a pin that stunned the Sports Pavilion crowd.

In a span of 52 seconds, the entire momentum of the dual had changed, and it snowballed from there.

“It turns the match, but those things happen,” Robinson said of Dardanes’ loss. “It doesn’t make any difference, and you’ve got to overcome it.

“We have to be able to come back, and we didn’t do that today. That’s not what a No. 1 team does — a No. 1 team finds a way to win.”

Minnesota lost four-straight matches after the pin and could not recover from the deficit. The Gophers won the final three matches of the dual.

Robinson said the absences of Ness and Storley didn’t make the results any more acceptable.

“That’s an excuse,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do to win,” he said.

Tony Nelson said the first loss of the season stings, but he said it’s better if it happens early in the season.

“It does hurt a lot, but we’ll move on,” he said. “We’ve got a good team … and we’ve got a long ways to go before the end of the year.”

Though the team didn’t fare well, Nelson dominated his heavyweight match to remain undefeated.

Nelson gutted out a 2-0 win over No. 2 heavyweight Alan Gelogaev to close out the dual with OSU. Nelson rode Gelogaev the entire second round, which paved the way for a win.

Nelson lost 16-5 last season to Gelogaev and said the last year has made a major difference.

“I think the big thing with me is confidence level,” Nelson said. “I won the NCAA championship, so I know I’m the best out there.”

Robinson said Nelson impressed him over the weekend. He said he was also pleased with the performances of Corey Hodowanic (125) and Chris Dardanes (133).

Hodowanic filled in at 125 pounds for David Thorn, who was sick with the flu — the same sickness that kept Chris Dardanes out last week.

Minnesota made one roster change unrelated to health. Danny Zilverberg replaced Brad Dolezal at 157 pounds.

Robinson said Zilverberg has a different style than Dolezal that matched up better against OSU’s Alex Dieringer.

“That weight class isn’t solidified by any stretch of the imagination,” Robinson said of the Gophers 157-pound spot. “That thing won’t be decided for a while.”

Robinson said he expects Storley and Ness back in action at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn., in early January.

Minnesota competes twice before then — Dec. 7 against Northwestern and Dec. 8 against Oregon State.

Robinson said he has to get his team refocused after its first loss of the season. 

“We’ve got three months to figure it out before it gets serious,” he said. “We know where we are, and we know what we have to do.”