U, Iowa both looking for revenge

Sarah Mitchell

For Minnesota’s second-ranked wrestling team, Saturday’s dual meet at Iowa is a chance to prove the Gophers’ recent success against No. 3 Hawkeyes was not an accident.
Minnesota (9-2 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten) defeated the Hawkeyes (9-1, 2-1) at the National Duals in Iowa City two weekends ago. With a victory over the weekend, Minnesota would be victorious in three of the last four confrontations.
“I’m sure they’re boiling from National Duals,” junior Brandon Eggum said. “There’s a lot of competition between the two teams. And I haven’t read what they’ve been saying, but I’m sure they’ve been talking a lot. They’re probably saying it was a fluke.”
At the end of last season, Iowa’s perception of the Gophers was that they were a team of luck. Minnesota beat Iowa at the 1998 National Duals, 18-17, with a pin from former heavyweight Shelton Benjamin. The Hawkeyes counterattacked a week later, this time on the Gophers’ turf.
In the same situation, the Hawkeyes’ Wes Hand returned the favor, pinning Benjamin and securing a 20-12 win for Iowa.
While the Gophers’ own bragging rights from the most recent meet, there are some members on the team seeking revenge for last season’s draw.
“I think we want revenge for a decade,” junior Delaney Berger said.
Saturday’s meet also counts in the conference standings, however, giving it an importance that goes beyond emotion.
“This is a Big Ten meet,” Gophers freshman Leroy Vega said. “Iowa and us, we lead the conference, but you can’t count anybody out. Last year Penn State beat us out at Big Tens and we finished third.”
Wisconsin, the team the Gophers wrap up their weekend road trip with on Sunday, is one of the teams clumped in the middle of the league. The Badgers (3-7, 0-2) have taken a step backwards performance-wise, but Wisconsin coach Barry Davis is willing to forget the past in search of an upset.
“All we need is an upset early,” Davis said. “Get the crowd into it.”
Under the new random weight class lottery, Davis might get his upset. Don Pritzlaff, at 165 pounds, could provide a spark.
The third-ranked sophomore has experienced early success with the Badgers and has been nearly unbeatable this season. Pritzlaff (14-1, 2-0) wrestled as a true freshman last season, qualifying for the NCAAs and earning All-American honors.
But the Gophers don’t exactly have a no-named grappler at 165 pounds. No. 6 Josh Holiday (22-1, 3-0) has an equally impressive record and said there is little talent gap between the two rankings, if any at all.
“I definitely feel I’m going to go in there and beat him,” Holiday said. “I’m going to open up and prevent him from slowing me down.”
Several Gophers grapplers have been slowed down since National Duals due to injuries and colds. This weekend, however, Minnesota will debut its complete lineup.
“I feel really confident,” said 174-pounder Berger, who injured his shoulder three weeks ago. “As far as I am concerned, I’m ready to go.”
Berger’s thoughts reflect that of the entire team.
“There is a lot of intensity going into this weekend, especially with Iowa,” Eggum said, “the fact that there is so much tradition at Iowa.
“This is what we work so hard for.”