Wrestlers wrap up dual meet season

Brian Stensaas

Less than a full day after Minnesota’s wrestling team trounced Wisconsin 40-6, one would have thought the team had lost by that margin by the way things looked at practice.

Rather than a light workout or a day off after the win, the Gophers’ coaching staff elected to run the team.

Hard.

A steady stream of wrestlers occupied the staircases at the Bierman athletics complex, each running with a set of dumbbells.

“We did some tough things this week but it’s for a good reason,” 133-pounder Ryan Lewis said. “We do it as a team and know what the other is going through. It fuels us, gets us ready.”

The grueling workouts come during a rare week when fourth-ranked Minnesota (16-5, 6-1 Big Ten) wrestles just once. The Gophers will have Friday and Saturday off before playing host to Indiana (16-7, 1-4) on Sunday afternoon.

The meet will be the last collegiate dual for five Minnesota wrestlers, but more importantly it acts as a springboard into the postseason for the entire team.

A win over the Hoosiers will give the Gophers at least a share of the dual season conference title for the third straight year.

Minnesota currently stands in first place, a half a meet ahead of both Michigan State and Iowa. Both schools wrestle twice this weekend.

As for the Gophers, they know not to overlook Indiana despite its Big Ten record.

“Indiana’s still a quality team,” Minnesota assistant coach Joe Russell said. “They may not be like Iowa, but no matter what team it is, your last meet before Big Tens is an important one. They’re going to come in wanting to take one from us. It’s important for our guys to wrestle hard and give us something positive before the postseason.”

If there’s one thing the Gophers need to work on collectively, it’s scoring early and often.

During last Friday’s 22-18 loss at Iowa, several wrestlers waited to make their moves. While remaining aggressive, often their offense did not appear until the matches’ third periods. In addition, two Minnesota wrestlers succumbed to pins.

With a tightly contested conference race, it’s likely that high scores – leading to bonus points – will win the tournament.

“It’s the most important thing,” Russell said of the extra tallies. “We’re trying to tell the guys that if you see a chance for an extra score, take it. We lost that (Iowa) dual meet because of bonus points. And on Sunday, we came through with lots of them.”

Following Sunday’s dual, the team will have 13 days off before the Big Ten tournament in Madison, Wis.

However, no one is expecting a mini-vacation.

“We can’t stop – we have to keep it all going,” said junior heavyweight Garrett Lowney, who will leave the team at season’s end. “It all starts, really, on Sunday. We know we want to keep all the momentum from the big win at Madison and use it to go on to Big Tens and NCAAs.”

Potter honored

Minnesota’s Mitch Potter was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on Tuesday after a record-breaking first-place finish of 45.89 seconds in the 400 meters at the Iowa State Classic last weekend.

Potter automatically qualified for NCAA Indoor Championship competition, bettering the meet record of 46.14 set by LSU’s Derrick Brew in 2000 and breaking his own school record of 45.96 set in 2002.

Potter went on to anchor the 4×400-meter relay team that took first place with an automatic qualifying time of 3:06.03 and broke the meet record of 3:06.36 set by Ohio State in 1993.

The 4×400-meter relay squad and Potter are both ranked No. 1 in their respective events in NCAA Division I.

Minnesota’s next competition is the Snowshoe Open on Friday, Feb. 21. The meet is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Field House.

Lehan at combine

University of Minnesota senior cornerback Michael Lehan has been invited to the National Football League’s Scouting Combine and will participate in drills beginning on Friday. The scouting combine will take place at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind.

Lehan previously played in the Hula Bowl with senior teammate Dan Nystrom and recorded two interceptions in leading the Gophers to a 29-14 victory over Arkansas in the Music City Bowl.

Baseball

Minnesota’s baseball team will travel to Tucson, Ariz., for a three-game series against the Arizona Wildcats and a single game against Oklahoma State.

The Gophers will face Arizona at 4 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Minnesota will also take on Oklahoma State at 5 p.m. Sunday. Arizona is coming off a three-game sweep at UC Irvine last weekend and is 6-3 overall, while Oklahoma State is 2-3.

Arizona is 3-3 at home with two of its losses coming at the hands of No. 11 Baylor. The Gophers are 16-10-1 all-time against Arizona and 3-6 against Oklahoma State.

Minnesota returns two Big Ten award winners and last year’s batting champion to this year’s team. 2002 Big Ten Tri-Player of the Year Luke Appert and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year C.J. Woodrow return to this year’s squad.

Woodrow was 7-1 with a 2.55 ERA in Big Ten play last year, while Appert batted .390 with nine homers and 20 RBI in conference play in 2002. Appert finished third in the conference batting title race to teammate Scott Welch who batted .398 in Big Ten play. All three players were First-Team All-Big Ten honorees in 2002 and are Baseball America Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten honorees.

Hockey tickets remain

The Minnesota Athletics Ticket Office has announced that 2,500 tickets remain for the 2003 NCAA West Regional at Mariucci Arena, March 28-29. Ticket packages are $70 and will include the two regional semifinals on Friday, March 28, and the regional final on Saturday, March 29.

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team is currently ranked sixth in the nation and if the Gophers receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament, Minnesota will play at Mariucci Arena in the West Regional.

To purchase tickets, contact the Golden Gopher Ticket Office at 612-624-8080 or 1-800-UGOPHER.