Wrestlers buckle down for road trip

For the Minnesota wrestling team, the climb up the mountain to a national championship is a long one.
It’s three weeks before the second-ranked Gophers reach the summit at the Big Ten tournament, and five before they head to the NCAAs.
But before Minnesota (14-1, 4-0 Big Ten) can reach the top, the Gophers will have to hike through Michigan this weekend.
After two weeks off, Minnesota takes on Michigan in Ann Arbor on Friday, then heads to East Lansing for a match with Michigan State on Sunday.
The Gophers are eager to return to the mats and hope to use the rest as an advantage.
“Everybody has been stepping it up real good, and we’ve been busting our asses pretty hard,” said freshman Jared Lawrence. “It was good to let our bodies recuperate and get ready for this last little push to the end of the season.”
That push starts tonight with the Wolverines. No. 10 Michigan (9-2-1, 2-1-1) is led by senior Joe Warren and junior Damion Logan.
Warren is ranked fourth at 133 pounds, and will give Minnesota’s Brett Lawrence (ranked 12th) a tough match. Logan — the seventh-ranked wrestler at 141 — will take on Minnesota’s Chad Erickson, who is ranked 13th.
After Michigan, the Gophers will stay in the state to take on the 11th-ranked Spartans (7-3-1, 3-2-1). Michigan State is led by junior Pat McNamara and senior Nick Muzashvilli.
McNamara, who is ranked second at 133, will also give Brett Lawrence a challenge. Fourth-ranked Muzashvilli will take on Minnesota’s No. 8 Owen Elzen.
Despite the brief break, coach J Robinson didn’t express any concern about his team losing a step. In fact, he said they are right on pace to where they want to be.
But Robinson did seem wary that his team might be looking past this weekend a bit, and focusing on the big meet with the top-ranked Hawkeyes next Sunday.
“We have Michigan and Michigan State, and we don’t want to overlook them because everybody’s starting to look towards Iowa already,” Robinson said.
“It’s Michigan and Michigan State this weekend. That is what we need to worry about.”
Robinson said this weekend is big for the team, but even more crucial for the individual wrestlers battling conference opponents.
“There are a lot of Big Ten matches this weekend that are important for seeding at the conference tournament,” he said.
“If we win a lot of those matches, it’s going to change a lot of our rankings in the conference tournament. That is what’s really important.”
The Gophers wrestlers understand that, but they also understand the significance of the wrestlers’ performances as a team.
“All we got to do is get 10 guys all together on the same page at their peaks,” junior Brett Lawrence said.
The Gophers definitely have faith that their coaches — their guides on the hike — will get them to the peak.
“We got the coaches to get us there, so hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be (on top),” Jared Lawrence said.

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]