After wrestling four of their first five duals on the road, the No. 3 Gophers wrestling team will finally get some home cooking.
Minnesota will return home to face unranked Iowa State at Williams Arena on Friday.
“[ISU] has some weights that they’re competitive at,” head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “I don’t think there’s anything really tricky about them — strategic-wise we’re not changing anything.”
The dual will be held at Williams Arena because the NCAA Volleyball Tournament will occupy the Sports Pavilion.
Jake Deitchler (157) will not be in the lineup for the Gophers, according to Eggum. Instead, redshirt sophomore Alec Ortiz will wrestle in his spot. The versatile Ortiz has filled in for both Deitchler at 157 and freshman Logan Storley at 174 pounds this season.
“It’s just an opportunity to represent the team, and I’ll take any opportunity I can get,” Ortiz said of his fill-in roll. “I didn’t get a chance to make an actual starting spot this year but anytime you get to go in the lineup, it’s a privilege.”
Eggum said Deitchler’s situation is “week-to-week,” adding that there is no chance of him wrestling this week and there is no timetable for his return.
Storley is expected to return from his sprained ankle this weekend, according to Eggum.
“Storley will wrestle this week,” Eggum said. “We’re just debating right now if he’s going to wrestle on Friday in a dual or if we’re going to send him to an open.”
Storley was expected to make his college dual debut last weekend but the coaches said they didn’t think he was 100 percent.
The Cyclones have struggled to a 0-6 record this season and have lost to top-tier opponents Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa in the past two weekends.
The Cyclones lead the all-time series with the Gophers 37-18-2. Minnesota defeated ISU last season in Ames, Iowa, 26-13.
The Gophers have had mixed results during the first month of the season. They recorded a big conference win against then-No. 2 Penn State but suffered nonconference losses to top-five ranked Cornell and Oklahoma State.
“I have mixed emotions I guess, [on the first couple weeks]. Sometimes we wrestle good, sometimes we don’t,” Zach Sanders said. “We’re trying to be consistent here, it shows that we have a lot of work to do and that guys got to step up when the big matches are there.”
Sanders (125) jumped to the No. 1 ranking for his weight this week in InterMat’s rankings.
Eggum reiterated, as he has all season, that wrestling a strong schedule can only help the team.
“We’ve had some great competition as a team,” Eggum said. “No team in the country has even come close to our schedule, and we’re in the Big Ten on top of it. It’s been great for us because we’ve seen early the things that these guys need to work on and it’s put them in a situation against good competition where they’re getting into some scrambles and they’re getting into some situations where they have to come back and all those things are great testing situations for them.”
The Big Ten is considered one of the toughest wrestling conferences in the country with eight of the conference’s 12 teams ranked in the top-25.
Friday’s dual against ISU will be the Gophers’ last action for more than three weeks. The team’s next event is the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“You really hope that before you go into Christmas break that the guys wrestle really well,” Eggum said. “It’s something to build off of confidence-wise before we hit the Southern Scuffle.”
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