Gophers rounding into early top form

David McCoy

Last season, Minnesota’s wrestling team was rife with youth, and in a near-constant state of injury.

The Gophers still managed to pull things together at the end of the season, finishing in second at the Big Ten Championships and carding a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

This season, No. 5 Minnesota has avoided the injury bug in its 7-0 start in dual meets. And here’s the really scary thought for the rest of the nation: The Gophers are still a young wrestling team.

Of the 13 wrestlers to have started a dual meet, just one is a senior, 165-pounder Matt Nagel. Just two more, Andrew Domingues at 125 and Cole Konrad at heavyweight, are juniors.

“Our guys are young,” coach J Robinson said. “But I think one thing that’s helping them is their confidence.”

In this weekend’s dual-meet wins against No. 7 Iowa State and No. 17 Nebraska, a trio of young wrestlers scored what may have been the biggest wins of their collegiate careers.

Sophomore C.P. Schlatter, who missed time twice last season with injuries, knocked off second-ranked Trent Paulson of Iowa State at 157 pounds Friday. Schlatter took Paulson down two times and was not taken down in the match.

Previously, a win over ninth-seeded Derek Zinck of Lehigh at last year’s NCAAs was Schlatter’s biggest college win.

The win over Paulson could provide the talented Schlatter ” a much-hyped recruit out of Ohio who missed All-American status by one match last season ” with the confidence that Robinson is talking about.

“There’s been so much pressure put on C.P. about how he should have done last year,” Robinson said. “He’s a very conscientious guy, and what I’m trying to get him to do is hang loose.

“He’s just got to relax and wrestle. If he wrestles, he can do really well.”

On Sunday, sophomore Gabe Dretsch dominated fifth-ranked Jacob Klein of Nebraska at 174 pounds. Dretsch scored a 12-4 major-decision victory over Klein.

And perhaps the most confidence-inspiring performance of the weekend came from redshirt freshman Travis Lang at 125 pounds.

Lang started in both dual meets with Domingues injured, and staked his claim for the starting spot at 125.

Against Iowa State, Lang fought through early trouble to earn a major-decision win over Ben Hanisch. Two days later, Lang pinned Paul Donahoe of Nebraska. Donohoe is ranked 15th in one national poll.

“(Lang) did a great job,” Robinson said. “It was great to see him pull out a win… He did really well.”

As long as Minnesota stays healthy this season, youth could give way to year one of a new dominant wrestling run.

” Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]