Minnesota begins dual meet schedule with home match

The No. 4 Gophers kick the season off with Cal State-Bakersfield.

Austin Cumblad

The 4th-ranked Minnesota wrestling team begins its dual meet season against Cal State-Bakersfield Saturday at 7 p.m. in Williams Arena. Wrestling unattached at the Bison and Kaufman-Brand Opens, a handful of Gophers notched early season championships. Last weekend in Omaha, sophomore Sonny Yohn captured the 184-pound title, an encouraging start to 2009 since Yohn missed the early part of last season coming off of shoulder surgery . âÄúWe had to make him compete before he was ready because the team needed him, and thatâÄôs real hard,âÄù head assistant coach Joe Russell said. âÄúMentally, I think it hurt him, his confidence a little bit. Now heâÄôs healthy, heâÄôs had great training in the spring, summer and fall and heâÄôs showing that out there.âÄù Yohn, ranked 16th by Intermat , looks to have locked up a starting spot at 184, an important weight for Minnesota, which is rife with veterans at 125, 133, 141 and 165 and has clear starters at 149, 157 and 285, but entered the season with uncertainty from 174 to 197. On Saturday, the Gophers will get their first look at the cohesive lineup they have built. With ranked wrestlers in eight of ten weight classes, expectations are justifiably high. âÄúThereâÄôs no reason we shouldnâÄôt be able to put a lot of points on the board,âÄù Yohn said. Minnesota hasnâÄôt met Cal State-Bakersfield since 1997, but the Gophers 8-0 all time against the Roadrunners . Bakersfield boasts a pair of ranked wrestlers, including No. 4 Mitch Monteiro at 285. 8th-ranked junior Ben Berhow clashes with Monteiro in what will likely prove to be SaturdayâÄôs marquee matchup. Because both men tend to wrestle aggressively, the heavyweight bout should prove more active than most. âÄúBoth of these guys wrestle hard and take lots of chances, and thatâÄôs fun,âÄù Russell said. âÄúA lot of times you see heavyweights, they stand around and people arenâÄôt as excited to watch them, but these guys will go toe-to-toe.âÄù Then thereâÄôs the spectacle of Dustin Schlatter returning to the mat for the Gophers. On display Saturday in Minneapolis for the first time since the 2008 Big Ten championships, the redshirt senior has moved up two weight classes to 165 and competed in the World Wrestling Championships for the United States national team in Denmark since last donning a maroon and gold singlet. Despite not wrestling at the collegiate level in more than a year and a half, Schlatter is ranked first at 165 by Intermat . He won a national title at 149 in 2006 as a freshman and will try to bookend his career with a national championship as a senior. Already a three-time All-American , Schlatter and senior Jayson Ness , who is ranked second at 133 , both have a chance this season to become the sixth and seventh four-time All Americans in Gophers wrestling history . Schlatter and Ness are the type of wrestlers who make a coachâÄôs job quite easy. In fact, thereâÄôs little coaching to do. Russell usually just leans back and admires. âÄúPretty miserable having to watch Dustin wrestle,âÄù Russell joked, tongue planted firmly in cheek. He laughed before providing his true assessment. âÄúDustin is a blast to watch wrestle. HeâÄôs unbelievably talented and does some amazing stuff when heâÄôs out there competing. As a coach, when heâÄôs out there, I just sit back and go âÄòWow.âÄô âÄù