Top-ranked Minnesota has shot out to a 6-0 start this season, but when No. 3 Oklahoma State comes to town, the Cowboys will boast the long-term momentum.
Though OSU has only competed in one match all season, it has lost to Minnesota only once since 2006.
OSU defeated Minnesota in Stillwater, Okla., last season, and this weekend, the Gophers are looking for payback.
“They had the home-field advantage last season, but this weekend we will be in our own domain,” senior Cody Yohn (165 pounds) said, “and that kind of fuels the fire having the crowd on our side this time.”
Yohn, the only senior in the starting lineup, said the rivalry between the teams has grown in his time with Minnesota.
Minnesota assistant coach Brandon Eggum said this will be the Gophers’ toughest test to date. He said OSU’s lineup is packed from top to bottom, but “they have their key guys that are very, very tough.”
“It will be a test to see where we’re at early in the season,” he said. “It will be crucial for guys to capitalize on their opportunities.”
Jordan Oliver, the leader of the Cowboys, is one of the key guys Eggum spoke about. Oliver wrestled at 133 pounds and was an NCAA finalist last season, but he has bumped up two weight classes to 149 pounds this year.
OSU also received transfer Tyler Caldwell from in-state rival Oklahoma to fill a void at 165 pounds and further bolster its lineup.
Eggum said it’s easy to tell on paper which matchups are going to be close, and it’s vital to score bonus points in matches where there’s a large gap in the rankings.
Minnesota should fare well in most weights this weekend, but it appears overmatched on paper in other areas of the lineup.
Yohn faces a tough test with Caldwell at 165 pounds, but he said he wants to “put his faith behind his training.”
Yohn struggled at times early in the season. He lost against Nebraska and North Dakota State.
“I’ve had a couple speed bumps … but I don’t think they’re a big deal because it’s so early in the season,” Yohn said. “It’s not how I start, but it’s how I finish my senior year.”
Yohn said he plans to finish on top. He still has a long way to go to reach that goal, but his matchup this weekend, in his words, “really ups the ante.”
“It’s great to have a match like this to be able to gauge early in the season,” he said, “because regardless of how you do, it gives you kind of a standard of where you need to be.”
Eggum said Minnesota’s starting lineup is still a little cloudy at 149 and 157 pounds, but he said he has been impressed with both Seth Lange and Brad Dolezal.
“I thought Seth did a good job last weekend at the Bison Quad,” Eggum said. “There’s no doubt he can wrestle with the best guys in the nation.
“And Dolezal at 157 is young, but there’s no doubt he has a huge upside.”
Chris Dardanes (133) will return to the lineup after the flu kept him out of competition last weekend.
His brother Nick Dardanes (141) said the team has built confidence through its first six matchups this season.
Nick Dardanes said the early season matches were a grind but have provided valuable experience. He lost in the first match of the season against Hofstra but hasn’t lost since.
“This is the reason I came to wrestle here at the University of Minnesota,” Nick Dardanes said. “It’s going to show where we’re at, and I think we can definitely go out there and beat up on these guys.”