Minnesota hits the road for first time in two weeks

The Gophers have won 14-straight dual meets after a season-opening defeat.

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota wrestling team hits the road this weekend for the first time in the young Big Ten season to face off against two top-20 teams.

Having spent the last two weeks at home, where they opened the conference season with three convincing victories, the Gophers will have a big test first in Bloomington, Ind. against the 18th-ranked Hoosiers on Friday, followed by a trip to a traditionally hostile crowd in Champaign, Ill., for a Sunday match with the 11th-ranked Illini.

Two-time All-American Mack Reiter (133), who will be returning to the lineup for his first start in a dual meet this season for Minnesota after being sidelined with a knee injury, said he is excited to go again.

“I’m ready to be tested again,” the junior said. “As far as our team, we know we’re the best in the country if we wrestle like we can. It doesn’t matter where.”

Although the Gophers are the clear-cut favorite in both matches, Reiter acknowledged that both opponents bring talented wrestlers to the mat.

Indiana (10-2) comes into Friday’s meet touting five ranked wrestlers; while undefeated Illinois (8-0) has eight to match Minnesota’s ranked count.

Junior C.P. Schlatter (157), ranked No. 3 in the country and 7-0 since his return to the lineup at the National Duals, will have an especially hard task over the weekend along with teammate redshirt freshman Jayson Ness (125), ranked No. 4.

While Schlatter will battle No. 7 Brandon Becker of Indiana and No. 1 Mike Poeta of Illinois, Jayson Ness will take on No. 8 Angel Escobedo and No. 6 Gabe Flores, of the Hoosiers and Illini, respectively.

Schlatter said Minnesota’s consistently tough schedule will give the team a battle-tested advantage for the NCAA Tournament in March.

He added that for the team to reach the ultimate goal of a National Championship, it needs to take care of business every weekend.

“We prepare the same every week, no matter the opponent,” he said. “What we strive for is consistency, and we’ve had it lately.”

And while the Gophers have consistently found ways to drop opponents, the competition continues to be consistently strong, with seven of their last eight opponents currently sitting in the top 25.

With the constant strong competition, Minnesota’s 14-match, dual meet victory streak, which has stretched over two months, could be severely tested in the coming weekend.

Assistant coach Joe Russell said the adversity the Gophers will face away from home is nothing but a positive.

“On the road, we have an ‘us against the world mentality,’ ” and our guys seem to thrive on that,” he said. “Anytime you’re on the road in the Big Ten it’s a challenge. We plan on winning both duals, but we’re going to have to earn it.”