Minnesota “beasts” headed to Iowa State

The gymnasts surely donâÄôt mind, but the Minnesota wrestling team probably isnâÄôt too crazy about the âÄúBeauty and the BeastâÄù promotion it will be a part of tonight in Ames, Iowa. Not because it will feature the Gophers wrestlers and womenâÄôs gymnasts competing simultaneously against Iowa State; more because theyâÄôre being referred to as âÄúbeasts.âÄù But then again, with as often as the word aggressive comes out of Minnesota wrestlersâÄô mouths, maybe beast is exactly what theyâÄôre going for. And with the way head assistant coach Joe Russell describes the difference between Big Ten and Big 12 wrestling, âÄúBeauty and the BeastâÄù might be a good phrase to contrast the Cyclones and the Gophers. âÄúThe Big 12 conference is traditionally known for having a little bit more technical or slick kind of wrestler, while the Big Ten is known for being real aggressive and a hard hand-fighting conference âÄì less on the slick end, a little more on the beating each other up end.âÄù Whatever the differences, Minnesota will have its hands full this weekend. Though both teams are coming off losses âÄì the No. 12 Gophers to top-ranked Iowa , 4th-ranked Iowa State to No. 5 Missouri âÄì the Cyclones will likely put a ranked wrestler on the mat at every weight class . Wrestling against a Big 12 opponent in the middle of the Big Ten schedule can be a little different, senior Tyler Safratowich said, largely because the team isnâÄôt scouting Big 12 teams at all times like it is with the Big Ten. âÄúI think theyâÄôll probably overlook us a little bit,âÄù Safratowich said, âÄúbut our guys have been battling hard and thatâÄôs all you can ask. We have some young guys and maybe some guys that arenâÄôt as talented as some of the people theyâÄôre going up against, but that doesnâÄôt really matter when you have a guy that will fight.âÄù Minnesota is certainly a young team, and that will be especially emphasized on Sunday when the Gophers honor the only two men leaving the program during their final home dual against Indiana. Safratowich and Gordon Bierschenk will wrestle for the final time in front of a home crowd the Sports Pavilion Sunday at 2 p.m. There will be a ceremony saluting their contributions to Minnesota wrestling that afternoon as well . Safratowich, the teamâÄôs captain, is ranked 17th in the country at 157 by Amateur Wrestling News and just last weekend cracked the 100 career victory mark . He said Sunday will be bittersweet, but the realization that his days as a part of the Gophers are nearing an end probably wonâÄôt hit him for awhile. âÄúThe biggest thing for me probably isnâÄôt going to be Sunday, itâÄôs going to be the next time I come back and IâÄôm sitting in the stands watching the meet,âÄù Safratowich said. âÄúIt probably wonâÄôt hit me this weekend.âÄù A former walk-on, Bierschenk is listed on MinnesotaâÄôs roster as a redshirt junior, having recently returned to the team following a tour of duty in Iraq with the Army National Guard, but he plans to graduate this spring and has opted not to use his final season of eligibility. He garnered Big Ten wrestler of the week honors on Feb. 3 after a pair of decisive victories that included a pin against Penn StateâÄôs J.R. Brown that vaulted the Gophers to a 20-18 victory over the Nittany Lions . From walk-on to starter at 197-pounds and Big Ten wrestler of the week âÄì it goes without saying that Bierschenk has come a long way. But Russell said it anyway. âÄúTo be in that room as a walk-on is not a fun experience âÄì you get beat up on,âÄù Russell said. âÄúNow, you watch him and heâÄôs probably the main reason we won the dual against Penn State; heâÄôs done some real good things for the team this year. So itâÄôs exciting for guys that have the dream of wrestling Division I like he had, heâÄôs living that dream right now.âÄù