With former heavyweight national champion Brock Lesnar on the bench for the first half, the Gophers wrestling team defeated Nebraska 26-7 to capture a share of the Big Ten Conference’s regular season dual meet crown.
“[Winning the Big Ten] is big, because everybody’s in it,” head coach J Robinson said. “We wrestled everybody. We wrestled all the top teams. So it’s great because they earned it, this team earned that championship.”
The dual started at 165 pounds, where Danny Zilverberg (165 pounds) filled in for Cody Yohn and lost 6-0 to Robert Kokesh. Robinson said he gave the struggling Yohn a break and that he expects him to be back on course soon.
“We wanted to change it up a little bit,” Robinson said. “[Yohn’s] just been in a little slump, and sometimes you’ve just got to back out and give him a little bit of a rest.”
The Gophers (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten) then strung four wins together to take a 12-3 lead into the intermission.
Kevin Steinhaus’ match against Josh Ihnen (184) was the highlight of the dual. Steinhaus used a takedown at the buzzer to take a 3-1 lead. Ihnen received a point for riding time, making the final 3-2.
“The score was tied 1-1, but he had riding time. If I didn’t get a takedown I was going to lose,” Steinhaus said. “There wasn’t very much time left, so I kind of threw myself under there on a move that I go to a lot and got the leg.”
The first half of the dual was closely contested — four of the five matches were decided by three points or less.
“Every win that we get helps build momentum for the next guy coming out of the tunnel,” Steinhaus said. “It’s a lot easier mentally to get into if for that next guy if the guy in front of him wins the match.”
Minnesota extended its match winning streak and won the first four matches after the intermission.
Robinson said he was impressed with how hard his team wrestled and that he was happy with the way they bounced back after last weekend’s loss to Iowa.
“They wrestled tough. They wrestled the way we want them to wrestle,” Robinson said. “We’ve talked a couple times about guys letting the close ones get away, and today they made those things happen.
“It’s good for them, it’s good for the momentum of the team but it’s also good for the fans. They come to see guys wrestle hard.”
Zach Sanders (125) bounced back from his first loss of the season and beat Shawn Nagel by major decision, 24-13.
Lesnar was at the dual to present freshman Logan Storley (174) with the 2011 Junior Hodge Trophy, given to the nation’s top high school wrestler as determined by Win Magazine.
Both Storley and Lesnar attended Webster High School in South Dakota.
Storley said he had about 150 friends and family in attendance, including members of his high school team.
“It was a good win, and I got my award in front of everyone,” Storley said. “Now we can start worrying about postseason and start getting after people and do what we need to do to be happy at the end of the year.”
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