National champs show Minnesota how it’s done

Minnesota won just three of 10 matches, losing 28-10 to No. 1 Oklahoma State.

Matt Anderson

Before the Minnesota’s wrestling team’s opening dual Sunday versus No. 1 Oklahoma State, two video boards above the elevated mat at the Sports Pavilion played season highlights of the Gophers’ 2001 and 2002 national championship seasons.

And then, the 2004-05 version of the Gophers found out how far they have yet to go to return to that level.

No. 7 Minnesota won just three matches in dropping a 28-10 decision to the two-time defending national champion Cowboys in front of 3,058.

“There were some good things,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “We had a couple weak things in the middle – (149 pounds) and (157). But when we can be a lot better, I think that we can be a lot better than they can in three months.”

Minnesota started the meet strongly. Bobbe Lowe took a major decision over Derrick Fleenor to open things at 125 pounds, and Mack Reiter came from behind in the third period to beat 17th-ranked 133-pounder Daniel Frishkorn, giving the Gophers a 7-0 lead.

After the 133-pound match, Minnesota would not hold a lead in any match until Roger Kish took a 2-0 first-period lead six bouts later at 184 pounds.

By that point, Oklahoma State had built a virtually insurmountable 22-7 lead.

Although Minnesota came into the meet with high expectations, Oklahoma State was a heavy favorite, with five wrestlers ranked in the top five of their weight class, compared with just one for Minnesota.

But experience is paramount for Minnesota at this point, and four freshmen from the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2003 made their dual debuts for the Gophers on Sunday.

Reiter and Kish each won tight matches, while Nik Lentz was pinned at 157 and Matt Koz lost 6-2 to second-ranked Jake Rosholt at 184 pounds.

“I don’t think that they’re going to expect us five (freshmen) to make it all up,” Reiter said. “I think it’ll be spread out through all of us.”

The dual ended with a showdown between the top two ranked heavyweights in the country, with No. 1 Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State beating Cole Konrad 3-1 in overtime.

Mocco took a 1-0 lead by escaping at the start of the second period, and Konrad tied the match 1-1 with an escape point six seconds into the third.

But Mocco won when he took Konrad down with 19 seconds remaining in the first overtime.

“He’s a real good hand player,” Konrad said of Mocco. “He constantly works for position.”

A national champion in 2003 before taking last year off and transferring from Iowa, Mocco has not lost in his last 42 matches.

He beat Konrad 2-1 in double overtime Nov. 22 at an exhibition match.

“I think that Cole started to worry a little about getting tired,” Robinson said. “Mocco came out with the same ideas to intimidate him. Cole’s got to realize that’s the way the match is going to go every time.”

Oklahoma State coach John Smith said he did not think Mocco performed to his own expectations against Konrad on Sunday.

“I don’t think that (a close match) is something he planned for,” Smith said.

And even though things didn’t go as Minnesota would have planned Sunday either, the wrestlers were able to keep their opening match in perspective.

“I think we’ve all got things to work on,” Reiter said. “It’s a long season, and a 28-10 loss is hard. But it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.”