Minnesota cruises to Big Ten tournament title

Four Gophers placed first as the team repeated as conference champs.

by Tyler Rushmeyer

;EAST LANSING – The Minnesota wrestling team will send nine wrestlers to the NCAA tournament after winning the Big Ten title with ease in East Lansing, Mich. over the weekend.

Racking up a team score of 156.0, no opponent came within 50 points of the Gophers, with Wisconsin and Iowa finishing a distant second and third with 99.5 and 91.0 points, respectively.

Minnesota’s team score was highest in the Big Ten Championships since 2002 when the Gophers went on to win the national title.

Coach J Robinson said he was pleased with the weekend overall, but felt the team can get even better.

“We wrestled well, but we didn’t hit all of our goals,” he said. “We got something left to prove and that’s good.”

Individually, Minnesota took home four titles over the weekend, while Northwestern picked up three and Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa each tallied one.

Redshirt freshman Jayson Ness cruised to the first Big Ten title of his young career, picking up two falls Saturday and a major decision Sunday, 12-1, over second-seeded Charlie Flack of Iowa to take the 125-pound crown.

Ness said he will take a few days off to relax before preparing for the NCAA tournament.

“This was one of my goals coming into the season,” he said. “But I still got one more to go.”

Sophomore Dustin Schlatter took home the second Minnesota championship of the day, escaping a near third-period takedown to capture the 149-pound championship for the second straight year.

Older brother C.P. Schlatter followed suit, defending his conference title with a tight 1-0 decision, decided only by riding time.

As a four seed, the junior upset both the one and two seeds in Michael Poeta and Brandon Becker of Illinois and Indiana, respectively.

Senior Cole Konrad gave Minnesota its fourth and final Big Ten Championship by taking the title for the third straight year with a fall over Penn State’s Aaron Anspacah.

After dropping his first match Saturday, junior Mack Reiter stormed back with a vengeance, picking up three falls and a decision to take third at 133-pounds.

“I was very frustrated after that first one,” Reiter said. “From then on I just wrestled hard and physical and wore guys out.”

Top-seeded Manuel Rivera, who came into the tournament with a record of 34-0 at 141-pounds, had a tough weekend while battling a knee injury and finished with a 2-2 record and the fifth place title after pinning his final opponent.

Sophomore Tyler Safratowich, battling an injured ankle in his final match, got revenge Sunday with a 7-5 decision over Purdue’s Justin Fraga.

Safratowich lost to Fraga in the championship quarterfinals on Saturday, but got

payback on Sunday when the two met again, and finished third overall in his weight class with a 5-1 record over the weekend.

Down 5-4 with fewer than 10 seconds to go, Safratowich picked up a takedown to give Minnesota its fifth top-three wrestler of the day.

Junior Gabe Dretsch followed with a fourth place finish, dropping a close decision to Iowa’s Eric Luedke, 6-3 in triple overtime – his second extra period match of the weekend.

Junior Roger Kish was seeded No. 2 and finished No. 2, after he fell to top-ranked Jake Herbert of Northwestern in the championship match 8-1.

After dominating their competition, Reiter said the Gophers made a statement to the rest of the nation. .

“Well, I think it showed what I’ve been saying all year that we are the best team in the country,” he said. “And hopefully we can prove it again in a couple of weeks.”