After tough loss, Gophers hope to ditch their troubles in the desert

Matt Anderson

A little more than 24 hours after coming off the mat on the short end of a 28-10 score against the top team in the nation, Minnesota’s wrestling team boarded a plane bound for Arizona.

At 8 p.m. today, seventh-ranked Minnesota will wrestle a dual meet against No. 22 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., just two days after falling to No. 1 Oklahoma State.

“It is going to be a little tricky with having a big dual at home, then traveling and having their first away dual meet for a lot of these guys,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “We do know that’s an issue we’ve got to deal with.”

Russell said the reason for scheduling such a difficult turnaround early in the season is to find out the level at which all the wrestlers are competing early in the season.

Arizona State is coming off a fourth-place finish at the competitive Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday, and Russell said that Arizona State will provide a challenge for Minnesota with its strength in the middle weights.

“They’re a very quality opponent,” Russell said. “In the middle weights, they’ve got ranked guys at (149 pounds), (157) and (165).”

The middle weights proved to be a weak spot for Minnesota in the dual against Oklahoma State. In the five Sunday matches from 141 pounds to 174 pounds, the Gophers did not claim any victories and gave up bonus points in three of those bouts.

Matt Nagel, a 165-pound junior, wrestled for close to eight minutes Sunday when he took No. 4 Johnny Hendricks to overtime before dropping the match 5-3, but he said he is not concerned about wrestling again two days later.

“It’ll just be a little bit of a boost for me,” Nagel said. “I think it’ll help me get back to the way I’ve been wrestling. I let (Hendricks) dictate those first two periods.”

This season’s early schedule has provided Minnesota with the opportunity to wrestle against a variety of stylistically different opponents.

The Gophers faced East Coast wrestlers at the Mat Town Invitational in Pennsylvania and will square off against Pac-10 grapplers tonight.

“Those guys wrestle more on the edge, they’re generally not as well-conditioned as Big Ten guys,” 125-pound senior Bobbe Lowe said. “They’re a lot more technical and (strategic) – kind of like East Coast guys – but they won’t ride as much.”

Because the Sun Devils are traditionally a competitive Western wrestling team, tonight should be a test that will help the Gophers down the road.

“I think it’s good for when NCAAs come up at the end of the season,” Nagel said.