Gophers to celebrate, then return to mat

Dane Mizutani

Minnesota assistant coach Brandon Eggum will open his home Thursday to wrestlers on the squad who live too far to return home for the holidays.

Eggum said he expects eight or nine guys at his house for Thanksgiving dinner, which will be a good chance for members of the team to bond. He said they’ll watch football, hang out and eat.

Then it’s back to the mat Saturday in Fargo, N.D.

The Gophers will tussle with Eastern Michigan and North Dakota State this weekend.

Minnesota has dominated its competition thus far in commanding wins over Hofstra, Nebraska and Boise State.

Eggum expects the same this weekend. He said his goal is to have a perfect weekend and go 10-0 against both teams. Eggum said the squad has the aptitude to achieve that feat this weekend against lesser opponents.

“We’ve got a strong team, and we set the bar high for our guys,” Eggum said. “There’s a handful of matches that should be good matches, but there’s no reason we can’t win them.”

Minnesota will face Eastern Michigan first Saturday and then NDSU that same afternoon — a format to which the Gophers have become accustomed early in the year.

This is the third weekend Minnesota will wrestle this season, and each time, it’s had to compete twice.

“It’s really important … just in terms of the stress of having multiple matches and multiple weigh-ins in a few days,” David Thorn said.

He also said the experience prepares the team for the fast pace of late-season tournaments.

Eggum said the marquee matchup of the weekend will be at 125 pounds between Thorn and NDSU’s Trent Sprenkle.

Sprenkle is ranked sixth in the nation in his 125-pound weight class.

“[Thorn] will have a big weekend,” Eggum said. “It will be good for him to get some good competition in again.”

Thorn said he understands he has a tough opponent in Jared Germaine from Eastern Michigan to start the weekend. He said he knows Sprenkle will be his biggest test this season.

“I’m really looking forward to wrestling Sprenkle,” Thorn said. “It will be a good test for me to see where I’m at.”

Cody Yohn will face NDSU’s Steven Monk at 165 pounds. Monk is ranked ninth in the nation at 165, and Yohn is ranked 11th.

Yohn struggled last Friday in Nebraska, but he rebounded against Boise State on Sunday, Eggum said.

He won both matches, but Eggum said he wasn’t aggressive enough with the lead. He said Yohn needs to be aggressive this weekend and pick his spots, as Monk excels at counter-offense.

“He likes when guys shoot on him,” Eggum said of Monk. “He’s got good defense, he’s funky, and that’s his style.”

Eggum said he’d like to see the Gophers record more pins and near falls across the board. He said he wants his squad to secure the win early and then go for bonus points.

“We still have a lot of improvements we need to make,” he said. “We should be scoring, and we’ve got to put more points on the board.”

Minnesota’s lineup isn’t completely set in stone yet, but athletes are starting to settle into their place on the team.

“I don’t think we’re where we need to be right now,” Thorn said, “but come Big Ten and NCAA tournament time, I know we will be.”