Gophers have a chance for revenge against top-ranked Oklahoma State

Tyler Rushmeyer

The showdown is set. Top-ranked Oklahoma State is coming to the Williams Sports Pavilion tonight and Minnesota’s wrestling team is more than ready for a rematch.

The four-time defending champions knocked the top-ranked Gophers out of the NCAA Tournament in the championship match last season, after Minnesota had defeated the Cowboys twice.

The intense rivalry will be fueled by the fact that Oklahoma State now sits at No. 1, after previously top-ranked Minnesota dropped to No. 3 following its season-opening loss to No. 11 Hofstra.

Senior heavyweight Cole Konrad said facing the team that ended the Gophers’ season last year has added to their motivation coming into tonight’s meet.

“It’s a lot of pressure, especially for our younger guys,” he said. “We’re just excited to get a chance at them early. Everyone will have to be at the top of their games.”

Minnesota will have a venue advantage, getting the Cowboys at home – where the Gophers are 48-13 since 1998 – for the first time in two years to the day.

Junior Jeremy Larson (165) said the crowd energy will help Minnesota in the hard-fought matches.

“It really ups your intensity,” he said. “I know both teams are going to be gunning for each other, so any advantage we can get is huge.”

Larson added the meet could set the tone for the rest of the season when the two teams – who have taken home the last six national collegiate wrestling championships – meet.

“It’s a chance to get back on top,” he said.

The Cowboys lost three All-Americans from last year’s squad, but the traditional powerhouse has reloaded once again, bringing back three other All-Americans, including two-time defending national champion Johny Hendricks (165).

Gophers redshirt freshman Jayson Ness (125) said facing the Cowboys gives Minnesota a chance to prove something to its rival.

“We got a chance to show them who is No. 1,” he said. “Not being on top has just motivated us further.”

The two titans of collegiate wrestling have posted remarkable dual meet records since the 1999-2000 season, with Oklahoma State checking in at 123-13-1 and Minnesota at 118-25-0.

During that span, the Gophers, who will be without Big Ten Champion C.P. Schlatter (157), have had the upper hand in recent history.

Minnesota is 7-3 since the 1999-2000 season against the epitomizers of collegiate wrestling, who have taken home 34 national titles in their history.

Coach J Robinson said tonight’s match should live up to its billing.

“It’s really an exciting week for us,” he said. “We can make a big statement to the wrestling world if we come out on top.”

Navy SEALs at U

The U.S. Navy SEALs will have representatives on hand at tonight’s meet to promote and kick off the Trident Challenge event to be held Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. at the University Aquatic Center and Field House.

The challenge is an athletic competition that will give up to 350 participants an opportunity to see how they stack up to the SEALs’ initial physical screening test.

The Dec. 10 event is open to both males and females ages 13 and up. More information can be found at www.tridentchallenge.com.