Gophers look to keep momentum rolling in final home meets

David McCoy

At 16-0, Minnesota is off to its best start since going 19-0 in duals in 2001-2002.

It’s been much longer since Minnesota’s Sunday opponent, Indiana, has beaten the Gophers in Minneapolis.

In fact, the last time the Hoosiers beat the Gophers in Minneapolis was more than 35 years ago.

But the Hoosiers also are the best they’ve been in years. Ranked 13th, Indiana (11-2, 2-2 Big Ten) will try to do what it hasn’t done since Jan. 20, 1968, and all Minnesota wants out of the weekend is a little more momentum.

“It’ll help us carry over,” 197-pounder Mitch Kuhlman said. “It’s very good momentum that we’ll need. We’ve got two big duals in the next two weeks, and we’ve just got to build on it.”

With the next two Sundays featuring tough duals against No. 2 Oklahoma State on Feb. 12 and No. 4 Michigan on Feb. 17, Minnesota is looking to gain a helpful push in its final two home duals of the season ” at 7 tonight against No. 24 Wisconsin and at 2 p.m. Sunday with Indiana, both at the Sports Pavilion.

“It’s really for momentum,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “We’re on a roll right now and we need to keep it going, sending positive statements for us and letting the rest of the country know that we’re going to be a tough team to wrestle. We definitely want to keep sending those statements.”

What the Gophers don’t want to keep doing is what they did the past two years against the Badgers ” lose.

Wisconsin won 18-17 largely on the strength of then-12th ranked Tom Clum’s 6-3 upset of then-fourth ranked Mack Reiter at 133 pounds.

Out of all his successes, Reiter never has beaten Clum, losing to him twice ” in last year’s duals and in the third place match at NCAAs ” though ranked higher than Clum both times.

Reiter is set on it not happening again, and his teammates and coaches have taken notice.

“I know he’s got a little more motivation this time,” Kuhlman said. “I know he wants to show him that last year, beating him ” it’s not going to happen again. And it’s just kind of a drive inside him that makes a difference. You’ll see coming through the week he’ll be pushing a lot harder.”

Russell said, “It will be easy for him to get fired up for that match.”

Russell also said Travis Lang and Kuhlman likely are Minnesota’s starters for the rest of the season at 125 and 197, respectively.

He said finally having all the starters set will with help the team’s continuity.

“As of right now they’re the guys,” Russell said. “It’s getting so late in the season it would be hard to change. Obviously you don’t want to mess with a guy’s psyche this late in the year. Hopefully it’s settled. If it’s not settled already, hopefully it’s settled soon.”

And that’s exactly what Minnesota is looking for out of its final home weekend ” continuity, momentum and getting everything in order in a friendly environment for that push to the finish.

If you ask the Gophers, they don’t envision it happening any other way.

“I don’t see us facing a letdown,” Lang said. “I just think we’re wrestling too well to have that get in the way. And as long as we keep going at guys and keep going at the pace we have been the last couple months, I see us doing very well.”