For the past 22 years, three wrestling programs have reigned king in the sport, capturing every single national title in that span.
Two of those juggernauts will meet up in an early season dual this weekend, offering a barometer for where each team stands after soft early-season schedules.
The No. 3 Gophers will host No. 2 Oklahoma State on Sunday at the Sports Pavilion. The two teams own seven of the past 10 national titles, with Iowa winning the other three.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to prove that we’re a better team than what we’re ranked,” Sonny Yohn said. “Hopefully everyone is healthy because that’s what we’re battling right now.”
There are certainly plenty of injury questions.
Alec Ortiz (157) suffered an injury against Central Michigan at last weekend’s Northern Quad and missed the third and final dual.
Scott Glasser (174) was in the exact same situation. Glasser is a more established starter — he earned a national qualifier last year — so his absence could be more of a detriment. Glasser is practicing with the team and hopes to return in time for Saturday.
“At some of the weights if guys are banged up, you’re put in a bit of a hole,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “You want a guy out there competing at 90 percent if you can, but if not, he’s just got to go out and wrestle against the odds.”
Glasser faced Oklahoma State’s 174-pounder Mike Benefiel at the Kaufman-Brand Open, dropping a tie-breaker in the finals, 2-1.
Cody Yohn (165) also faced, and was pinned by, his likely opponent at the Kaufman-Brand Open. But Eggum said he was dominating the match prior to the surprise pin and he thinks Yohn could earn major decision Sunday.
Turning tides like that will be essential, because with as tight as the teams are on paper, the match will likely come down to bonus points.
“We have to wrestle a perfect dual,” Eggum said. “In my mind, we have to win the ones that we’re supposed to, get an upset here or there, and score bonus points when we can.”
Sonny Yohn (197) lost 7-3 to his likely opponent, Clayton Foster, at the All-Star Classic. Yohn said he feels he can beat him, but he estimated that he’s lost the past five times they’ve wrestled.
“I put so much stress on myself last time; I’m just going to go out there more relaxed,” Yohn said. “If I’m the one deciding the dual, that’s where I want to be.”
The heavyweight class will also be notable, with Oklahoma State’s usual dealing with an injury, Eggum said.
Whether the Gophers will wrestle Ben Berhow, fresh off an injury, or Tony Nelson, now ranked No. 9 in the country, Eggum said the team is comfortable at heavyweight.
“We’ve got two great heavyweights, and at that weight we really need bonus points this weekend,” Eggum said.
The dual will likely be close by the time heavyweight rolls around, so it could decide the match.
“This is great for wrestling fans,” Eggum said. “You know the tradition Oklahoma State has had so it’s a great rival for our fans. It’ll be a fun one to have here at home.”
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