Young Minnesota grapplers will get earliest wake-up call of them all versus OK State

Matt Anderson

On Sunday, Minnesota’s wrestling team will open the season with a bang.

The Sports Pavilion will feature not only two video boards, emcees and a special lighting setup, but, more importantly, an early season matchup between two teams representing the last four national championships.

No. 1 Oklahoma State (2-0) will come to Minneapolis for the seventh-ranked Gophers’ first dual meet of the season after three tune-up tournaments.

The match is at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re going to have to wrestle really intense,” coach J Robinson said. “We’re going to have to get a couple upsets along the way, which we think are possible.”

Last February, the Gophers upset the eventual national champion Cowboys 17-16 in Stillwater, Okla., in the Gophers’ final dual of the season.

“I’m sure they’re going to use last year as a motivation to come here and try to stick it to us,” Robinson said.

For five of Minnesota’s 10 starters, it will be their first collegiate dual meet.

But that relative inexperience doesn’t mean the Gophers come into the meet with the Cowboys lacking in confidence.

“If we go out there and wrestle how we can – wrestle hard – we’ll be better than Oklahoma State and win,” 157-pound freshman Nik Lentz said.

The marquee matchup of the dual is at heavyweight, where the Cowboys’ top-ranked Steve Mocco, a 2003 national champion while at Iowa, will square off with second-ranked Cole Konrad.

Mocco beat Konrad 2-1 in double overtime at the NWCA Marines All-Star Classic exhibition on Nov. 22.

“It’s a good opportunity to prove that he isn’t the number one wrestler in the country,” Konrad said. “I’m looking forward to getting a little payback.”

Although Mocco comes in with a 41-match winning streak, Konrad believes he gained some confidence from their first match, and he said he won’t be intimidated by the Cowboys heavyweight.

Robinson, who was at that match, said Konrad helped to break the aura of invincibility that Mocco carries as the top-ranked heavyweight in the nation by taking their first match into double overtime.

“He has a sense of urgency (against Mocco),” Robinson said. “And he knows what he needs to do now.”

Starting lineup set

The final three spots in Minnesota’s lineup were filled for Sunday, with sophomore Quincy Osborn at 141 pounds, redshirt freshman Nik Lentz at 157 and senior John Duncombe at 174.