Wrestlers leave one, take one on road

Brian Stensaas


the University of Wisconsin Field House wasn’t exactly an intimidating place Sunday afternoon for the visiting Minnesota wrestling team.

Empty. Red. Unenthusiastic.

So much so, that as the Gophers took on the Badgers in front of more empty bleachers than filled, two men exchanged a conversation during the 141-pound match like they were in a movie theater.

Minnesota was loud on the mat, however, waxing Wisconsin 40-6.

The scene was the direct opposite of what the Gophers (16-5, 6-1 Big Ten) witnessed Friday night in Iowa City where 9,147 hostile fans went crazy for their Hawkeyes, cheering them on to a 22-18 win.

Iowa won the match with the ever-important bonus points, notching two pins and a major decision win.

And the Hawkeyes did so without head coach Jim Zalesky and top-ranked heavyweight Steve Mocco. Both were suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct during the Feb. 7 dual with Michigan State.

The sticker Friday evening came with 12 seconds to go in the 197-pound match when 14th-ranked Ryan Falslaas earned a two-point takedown over No. 8 Damion Hahn. The move broke a 1-1 tie and guaranteed Iowa the win.

“I’m still burned up about that, I’m pissed,” Hahn said Sunday. “We could have left on Friday with a win, but I lost and because of that the team lost.”

Following the Falslaas win, Iowa assistant coaches Tom Brands, Joe Williams and Royce Alger celebrated with a dance rivaling most conga lines, attempting to keep each other from charging the mat.

The display of emotion showed more intensity than the Gophers showed all evening.

“You need to be ready to go, especially in an atmosphere like this one,” Minnesota assistant coach Joe Russell said following the loss. “Some of our guys definitely struggled with that. We got upset in some weights we shouldn’t have and it surprised us. It’s depressing and it sucks, but in the long term we just have to learn to step up instead of backing down.”

After Iowa (15-3, 5-1) got the meet off to a bang with a pin at 125, the Gophers rattled off three straight wins to take a 9-6 lead into the final match before intermission.

Second-ranked 157-pounder Luke Becker, the defending NCAA champion, figured to give Minnesota a larger lead at that point, taking on 11th-ranked Joe Johnston.

Quite the contrary.

Down 1-0 in the match after a pair of stalling calls, Becker got caught in a second-period scramble in the center of the mat and was pinned by Johnston.

The entire arena erupted as Johnston gave the Hawkeyes a momentous 12-9 lead going into the break. Becker did not return to the arena floor the rest of the evening, while his opponent was flooded with questions.

“Nobody’s unbeatable,” Johnston said. “It took me a couple seconds for it to set in that he was pinned. I tried not to give him any opportunities to score and caught him at the right time.”

Not all was lost in Iowa City. Proving the Gophers weren’t going to leave without a fight, ninth-ranked Jacob Volkmann pinned Jason D’Agata at 165 – the first match after Becker’s upset loss.

Meanwhile, second-ranked Ryan Lewis won his second straight match against third-ranked Cliff Moore. Moore defeated Lewis in November.

With one conference dual left before the Big Ten tournament, Minnesota still stands to claim at least a share of the dual season championship. But the real test comes in three weeks at the conference tournament.

“We’re doing everything to get past Friday,” Russell said. “You don’t like to get those wake-up calls this late in the season, but we got one and have to make something out of it for the postseason.”

Lowney sits

Minnesota heavyweight Garrett Lowney strained his lower back over the weekend and did not wrestle against Wisconsin. Gophers head coach J Robinson said the injury is not serious and that Lowney, a native of Freedom, Wisc., could have gone in front of his home crowd if needed.

Brian Stensaas covers wrestling and

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