Wrestlers struggle to fifth place finish

Brian Stensaas

Team members, coaches and fans of Minnesota’s wrestling team knew this season was going to be different. And as if an embarrassing season-opening loss to archrival Iowa wasn’t enough proof, last weekend’s showing at the National Duals was the kicker.

In their worst performance in six trips to the annual event in Columbus, Ohio, the Gophers went 3-2 over the two-day tournament to take home fifth place.

Minnesota had won the last two championships.

“Some guys just didn’t do what they needed to do,” coach J Robinson said. “We came out flat our first match; we didn’t wrestle well. We put some good matches together and made good progress, but it wasn’t enough.”

The third-ranked Gophers (10-4) saved face by capturing fifth place with a 32-18 win over No. 4 Cornell on Sunday afternoon.

Already controlling a 14-3 lead, Minnesota clinched the win when 157-pounder Luke Becker pinned the Red’s Gabe Webster at 6:08 and Jacob Volkmann (165) matted Scott Roth in 2:37. Jacob Lininger also earned a pin, taking care of Matt Greenberg in 6:46 at 197 pounds.

However, earlier in the day it was Lininger’s 22-6 technical fall loss against Iowa’s Steve Mocco in the final match that kept the Gophers out of the third place bout.

Lininger, wrestling at heavyweight, was manhandled by the top-ranked Mocco. The four-point win tied the bout but the Hawkeyes earned the victory based on the fourth criteria — most major decision wins (1-0).

All was not lost for Minnesota, however. Ryan Lewis avenged his Nov. 15, 133-pound loss to Cliff Moore by defeating the Iowa grappler 4-1. For Lewis, the process was simple: stick to the basics.

“I just wrestled my match,” Lewis said. “I stayed out of scrambling situations and stayed out of trouble. I wrestled basic — no rolling around.”

While tens of thousands of Buckeyes’ fans crammed into the Horseshoe for a celebration of Ohio State’s football championship Saturday morning, the Gophers were next door doing anything but whooping and hollering.

Minnesota was shocked by No. 20 Iowa State in the opening round of the Duals, losing 22-18. It was the Gophers’ first loss at the tournament since a 17-16 Cyclones win at the 2000 finals.

Iowa State won six of 10 matches. Lewis was upset by Zach Roberson while Volkmann was pinned by Nick Passolano in what was an uncharacteristic Minnesota wrestling match. The loss gave the Gophers their first three-loss season since 1996-97.

Minnesota bounced back in the consolation bracket, defeating No. 10 Virginia Tech, fifth-ranked Arizona State and Michigan State to make its way into the Sunday morning session.

Still, Robinson wasn’t pleased on his trip back to Minneapolis — where he will go through two pages of notes from the weekend on things that need to change.

“Some just don’t have that eye of the tiger so to speak,” he said. “Our non-All-Americans aren’t doing what they need to do right now. They’re holding up the team.

“The coaches are going to have to do something drastic. We’ve tried minor things, but it’s not working.”

Lowney sidelined, again

heavyweight Garrett Lowney, who underwent shoulder surgery in November, injured his hip against the Sun Devils and did not compete Sunday. His status for this weekend’s match with the Spartans will be determined this week.