While bouncing back from a loss isn’t always easy, doing so on the road against the No. 2 team in the nation in one of college wrestling’s oldest rivalries isn’t any easier.
That’s exactly what the No. 4 Gophers are tasked with this weekend as they travel to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on the Hawkeyes.
After a disappointing loss to then-No. 19 Michigan on Sunday afternoon, the Gophers know the importance of this match.
“We have a lot to prove,” junior Logan Storley said after Sunday’s loss.
This Saturday’s dual gives the Gophers an opportunity to get back in the win column. It also offers a chance at retribution after the Hawkeyes left Minneapolis with a win last season.
But with opportunity comes obstacles. This year’s matchup between the titanic wrestling programs features eight matches between top-16 wrestlers.
That, along with recent history, indicates this should be an intense dual that could come down to the wire like the last couple of years.
The teams have met four times in the last two years, splitting the duals 2-2.
Minnesota head coach J Robinson said he knows how important this dual is, and he’s not thinking about the loss to Michigan anymore.
“When you get to the top, it becomes very important that you take it one at a time,” he said. “And this week, that one is Iowa. So that’s what we’re focused on.”
A key matchup of the dual will come at 157 pounds — where Minnesota junior Dylan Ness, currently ranked No. 14 in the nation, will take on No. 2 Derek St. John. Ness said he is excited for the challenge, though.
“I’m excited for it,” he said. “[St. John] will be a tough opponent. It should be a lot of fun.”
In another key matchup, two-time defending national champion Tony Nelson will face third-ranked Bobby Telford in the heavyweight bout. Nelson wants to bounce back after a brutal overtime loss to No. 1 Adam Coon of Michigan last week.
“That’s old news,” he said. “I just have to go out there and wrestle how I always have. [And] get another win, and get back on track.”
Storley, the fifth-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds, will wrestle No. 6 Mike Evans in another match that could swing the dual one way or the other.
Robinson said his team is excited for the weekend but said he wants that excitement to especially shine in Iowa City, Iowa.
“It doesn’t do us any good to be excited now,” Robinson said. “What matters is that they’re excited on Saturday afternoon.”
He’s confident his team will be up for the challenge.
“They’ll get up for it,” he said. “It’s an exciting dual.”