With the Minnesota wrestling team up a convincing 29-0 through eight matches Saturday, it was clear the Gophers were going to defeat Indiana in easy fashion.
But nevertheless, when junior Brett Lawrence took to the mats for the match at 133 pounds, his teammates and coaches were cheering him on as if his match was the deciding factor of the meet.
That’s when the often overused phrase of team chemistry kicks in. It was evident in Minnesota’s two dominating wins this weekend at the Sports Pavilion.
“We’re real tight,” freshman Luke Becker said. “On the bench we are always rooting for the other guy. We’re jumping, yelling and screaming. I think that brings a lot to the this team.”
Lawrence eventually beat his Hoosier opponent, and Minnesota cruised to a 38-0 win. But the story of the match (and the weekend), was not at any particular weight class.
It was the Gophers’ ability as a team to completely dominate their opponents.
The weekend began with a 32-6 trouncing of Wisconsin and ended with the drubbing of the Hoosiers. The shutout over Indiana was the first in a Big Ten dual meet for coach J Robinson.
The pair of victories improved Minnesota’s record of 14-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten. But more important than the wins for Robinson was how hard the Gophers wrestled.
Robinson always stresses intensity level. And surprise, surprise, he mentioned the high level of the Gophers’ intensity as the key to a pair of strong wins.
“They are really picking that up,” Robinson said. “We’ve been up and down, but everybody wrestled hard this weekend. That is a big plus.”
But, of course, the team’s intensity begins with individuals.
Senior heavyweight Brock Lesnar and sophomore Leroy Vega (125) were their usual dominant selves, as was senior Brandon Eggum (184). But the Gophers went deeper than their three All-Americans this weekend.
Senior Owen Elzen (197) and freshman Jared Lawrence (149) each had a pair of solid wins. But perhaps the most impressive Minnesota wrestler was freshman Luke Becker at 157.
The 14th-ranked Becker had arguably his best weekend as a Gopher, defeating two higher-ranked opponents — Wisconsin’s Cory Wallman (12th) and Indiana’s Kevin Stanley (10th).
Becker said the weekend was a big step for him in preparation for some stiff competition at the conference tournament.
“I knew it was a big weekend for me in terms of Big Ten seeding,” Becker said. “But I wasn’t really worrying about the wins and losses, I’m just trying to go hard for seven minutes and see what happens when the final whistle blows.”
For Becker, the final whistle meant a job well done — as it did for the entire Minnesota roster.
The Gophers take pride in winning at home. Prior to every home wrestling meet, the phrase “No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around,” is blasted over the public address system.
The Gophers usually live up to that saying. This weekend was no different.
John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]