U Wrestlers spread wealth at three events

Sarah Mitchell

Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson said his team is closer this season than in any of his 12 years with the program. On Saturday, however, the tightly knit group will spend some time apart.
The No. 2 Gophers are scheduled to showcase their talents in Fargo, St. Louis and Omaha, and plan on damaging the competition at each location.
“We’re going to put up a good showing wherever we go,” senior All-American Tim Hartung said.
The Fargo faction will represent Minnesota at its first dual match of the season. The North Dakota State match is considered a varsity competition, but the lineup does not completely reflect that. Among the expected names of No. 19 Leroy Vega (125 pounds), No. 1 Chad Kraft (157) and No. 2 Brandum Eggum (197), wrestling fans will be introduced to the unfamiliar names of freshman Joe Calavitta (141) and freshman Matt Kraft (174).
Robinson decided this weekend provided the best opportunity for some back-ups to get some much-needed exposure to the dual-meet format.
“Different guys have different needs right now,” Robinson said. “Some guys need competition and some guys need more matches.”
Vega is competing in the first varsity match of his Gophers career, giving North Dakota State’s freshman Ryan Lewis another stab at him. In the Bison Open Nov. 14, Vega decisioned Lewis 18-5.
“He’s going to want me just as much as I want him,” Vega said. “Maybe he’ll even want me more.”
Gophers assistant Marty Morgan will handle the coaching duties in North Dakota. He said he expects the Gophers to win all 10 weight classes.
“It’s pretty much like the Bison Open,” Morgan said of the tournament where the Gophers claimed nine of 10 titles.
While Morgan patrols the mats in Fargo, Robinson will be in St. Louis coaching No. 1 Hartung (197), No. 9 Josh Holiday (165), No. 13 Chad Erickson (141), No. 11 Pat Connors (133) and sophomore Brad Pike (149). Robinson is skipping out on the dual match in Fargo mainly to scout No. 1 Oklahoma State, who will be in town on Nov. 29.
Both Hartung and Holiday preferred a spot on the St. Louis roster rather than wrestling for a dual title against the Divison II Bison. They said the tournament offers more matches and stronger competition.
If the brackets work out, both Hartung and Holiday could get a chance to wrestle a Cowboy. For Holiday this means the opportunity to wrestle an old high school teammate.
“He was a couple of years younger than me, but he was tough,” said Holiday of Oklahoma State redshirt freshman Ty Wilcox. “If I wrestle my best I expect to beat him.”
The rest of the team — all of them freshmen — will represent the Gophers in Omaha.
No. 3 Iowa, No. 21 Northern Iowa and No. 15 Nebraska will be there, too. But after splitting with a higher-ranked Iowa team last season, the Hawkeyes present Minnesota with the biggest challenge.
“It’s still a rivalry,” Holiday said. “It’s just nice to see the little guys get a chance to wrestle.”
The Gophers will spend next week preparing for the marquee matchup with No. 1 Oklahoma State at the Sports Pavilion. Robinson plans to use this weekend as an indicator of team progress.
“They had a great weekend last week,” Robinson said. “Now we’re looking for some consistency. Putting it back-to-back is the object.”