Gophers open season with dominant performance at Bison Open in Fargo

Matt Anderson

The last time Minnesota’s wrestling team was on the mats, the Gophers tied for fifth at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in March.

This Saturday at the Bison Open in Fargo, N.D., No. 5 Minnesota put together a dominant season-opening performance that could set the tone for an even better finish this year.

The Gophers won the individual title in nine of the 10 weight classes contested, and in three weight classes, took first and second place.

“It was a pretty dominant performance,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “The guys have been putting their time in; they were able to show (that) out on the mats. That was exciting from a coaching standpoint.”

At 125 pounds, where Minnesota must find a wrestler to step in for departed two-time All-American Bobbe Lowe, junior Andrew Domingues won the bracket by defeating two teammates.

Domingues topped true freshman Jayson Ness 7-1 in the bracket semifinals, then beat redshirt freshman Travis Lang 7-3 in the finals to win the 125-pound championship.

After two years of sitting behind Lowe with only the occasional chance to fill in at a dual meet, Domingues has now assumed the role of likely starter at 125 pounds for the Gophers.

“I’ve put my time in, put my work in,” Domingues said. “This is my year to get going.”

Minnesota will also have a new starter at 141 pounds this season after last year’s starter Tommy Owen transferred to Boise State for his senior season.

Sophomore Manuel Rivera won the 141-pound Fargo title, going 4-0 and defeating teammate Charles Lloyd ” a sophomore junior college transfer wrestling in his first event for the Gophers ” in the semifinals.

Lloyd went 4-1 in taking third place, and all four of his wins came via pin.

“(Rivera and Lloyd) are two exciting wrestlers,” Russell said. “Manny’s been with the program and really showed composure in his match with Lloyd. It was in double overtime, Lloyd had the advantage and Manny was able to take a big risk and it paid off for him.”

Although Minnesota will be without Quincy Osborn, last season’s starter at 149 pounds at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, there appears to be little doubt as to who will start there for the Gophers this season.

True freshman Dustin Schlatter ” the younger brother of 157-pound sophomore C.P. Schlatter ” cruised to the 149-pound championship. Schlatter was 4-0 with a pin, two technical falls and a major decision. In the past, highly regarded true freshmen at Minnesota have always redshirted.

But Schlatter is expected to be the first wrestler to buck that trend.

“I’ve been planning on doing this the whole summer and the whole fall, working really hard to be able to step right up and wrestle,” Schlatter said. “It’s going to be really hard ” a lot of work ” but I think I’m ready.”

Just as Schlatter rolled through the competition at the Bison Open, returning All-Americans Mack Reiter ” ranked third in the nation at 133 pounds ” and No. 2 Cole Konrad at heavyweight also eased to individual championships.

Reiter went 4-0 with three first-period pins and a major-decision win over Eric Sanders of North Dakota State in the 133-pound finals.

Konrad won all three matches in the heavyweight bracket by pin.

Russell said the decision will be made later this week about whether Reiter and Konrad ” both of whom are scheduled to wrestle at the Marines All-Star Classic on Nov. 21 ” will wrestle next weekend at the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, Neb.

But for the opening weekend, Schlatter said the Bison Open was a good starting point.

“I think it’s a good tournament,” he said. “It’s not the toughest, but it’s good for getting the jitters out and actually getting a few matches in.

“And then you start wrestling the tougher guys, and you’ll be ready for them.”

Koz likely gone

Matt Koz, who started as a redshirt freshman at 197 pounds, is likely gone for the season and maybe longer.

Russell said Koz has not been practicing with the team recently and that Koz may leave school in the near future.

“The door’s not closed from our end,” Russell said. “I’m just not sure if the door’s closed from his end. It appears to be at this point.”

Redshirt freshman Justin Bronson, a heavyweight last season, was the only Minnesota wrestler in the 197-pound bracket at the Bison Open.

Bronson, now likely the starter at 197 pounds, went 3-2 in the tournament and finished in fourth place.