Wrestlers await key match at Penn State

Allison Younge

Upon entering their 13th weekend of the competitive season, the third-ranked Gophers wrestling team is hoping that the notorious number brings Minnesota a two-match eastern sweep.
So far this week, however, the Gophers have only met with negative odds. The normal midseason weardown has lead to flu-like symptoms for a few unlucky wrestlers.
Penn State (12-3) and Ohio State (10-8-1) will host dual meets against Minnesota this weekend. While the Gophers (14-1) hold record and ranking advantages over both teams, 190-pound captain Tim Hartung spoke with apprehension about the difficult weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are sick right now,” Hartung said. “I hope we’re ready.”
Fourth-ranked Penn State will offer the Gophers an important challenge tonight when the two teams meet at Rec Hall. The Lions home matches are known for drawing large crowds, making it vital that Minnesota enter the match focused.
“The atmosphere at Penn State is great,” Gophers assistant coach Joe Russell said. “The arena itself is like the fans are almost sitting on the mat. They’re real loud and vocal. It’s a fun environment.”
The dual meet marks the first time in four years that the Gophers have wrestled at Penn State. In 1994, the Lions upset top-ranked Minnesota, breaking the Gophers’ 18-match win streak.
Senior Zac Taylor is the only current Gophers wrestler that has competed at Rec Hall. Taylor declined to speak to the media this week, but his younger teammate Hartung has tried to envision the scene.
“I don’t really know, but I’ve heard it’s pretty hostile there,” Hartung said. “I’m kind of looking forward to it myself, it’s exciting to be in front of that many people.”
Five Penn State wrestlers are ranked among the top 10 in their respective weight classes. Third-ranked junior Clint Musser will meet the Gophers’ top-ranked Chad Kraft at 150 pounds. Kraft holds a 14-0 record, while Musser is 22-2 on the season.
Last year, the Gophers defeated Penn State three times — twice at the National Duals tournament on Jan. 18 and 19, and also at the Sports Pavilion on Feb. 9. Even though the Gophers have won their previous three bouts, Russell said Penn State can’t be overlooked.
“I think they’re really solid throughout their lineup,” Russell said. “They’re a very dangerous team, so we’re going to have to wrestle well to beat them.”
Penn State proved its threatening nature in its first dual meet this season. The Lions downed second-ranked Iowa by a score of 25-17 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. Although Penn State succeeded in surprising Iowa, the Gophers understand the need for a unified effort tonight.
“It’s going to be a battle, and I hope everybody knows that,” Hartung said. “We’re going to have to wrestle 100 percent to beat them.”
Following the Penn State match, the Gophers travel to Columbus, Ohio to dual Ohio State on Sunday at 2 p.m.