Minnesota’s wrestlers were ranked No. 1 in the USA Today preseason poll, and they exerted their dominance in the first weekend of the season.
The Gophers cruised to a 32-6 win against No. 25 Hofstra on Friday and followed it up with five titles at the Bison Open on Saturday.
“We saw some great things from our guys this weekend, but this early in the season, there is still room to improve,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said.
Eggum said he was satisfied with the way the team filled the voids left by All-Americans Zach Sanders and Sonny Yohn over the weekend.
David Thorn replaced Sanders at 125 pounds and started the party Friday with a pin against Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno.
The Gophers didn’t look back from there.
“I felt pretty good,” Thorn said after his match Friday. “[It was my] first time down to , so I was a little sluggish.”
Thorn spent some time at 133 pounds last season but dropped down a weight class to fill Sanders’ spot.
“He’s always kind of wrestled up a weight class, and even then he’s done great,” head coach J Robinson said. “I think right now he’s in his natural element.”
Minnesota won the first two matches of the dual before losing two. It won the final six.
Seth Lange wrestled at 157 pounds — a weight class Eggum said was up for grabs. Lange got the win in the fourth overtime period of the match.
“[Lange] showed a lot of poise and control in the overtime,” Robinson said. “He chose his times well in the overtime.”
The Gophers held a 12-6 lead at the break and looked primed to run away with the dual in the upper-weight classes.
Those upper-weight classes delivered.
Cody Yohn (165 pounds) scored a tech-fall victory, and Logan Storley (174), Kevin Steinhaus (184) and Scott Schiller (197) won by major decision. Tony Nelson (heavyweight) closed the dual with a 6-3 win over Paul Snyder.
Minnesota wrapped up its dual with Hofstra and then traveled overnight to Fargo, N.D., for the Bison Open. The Gophers saw similar success four hours north with their five titles.
The Gophers left Thorn, Chris Dardanes and Steinhaus back in the Twin Cities.
Eggum said the team decided to travel seven starters to “create a little adversity for the guys early in the season and get them a few more matches.”
Nick Dardanes rebounded in a big fashion after a substandard loss against Hofstra, winning an individual title at 141 pounds at the Bison Open.
Eggum said the loss Friday might have been a blessing in disguise for Dardanes.
“He let his weight get a little heavy … and that affected his match against Hofstra,” Eggum said. “It’s good for a guy like him to see that early … because it’s a lesson he can learn from so that it doesn’t affect him in March.”
Dardanes breezed through his weight class at the Bison Open with two major decisions and two injury defaults en route to his title.
Brad Dolezal won the title at 157 pounds, defeating Lange in the final. Eggum said Dolezal will likely start next weekend at Nebraska.
“That kind of answers that question for us at that point,” Eggum said about the battle for 157 pounds.
Storley, Schiller and Nelson built on their success from Friday, as each captured a title for their respective weight class.
Schiller beat his teammate Joel Bauman in the finals of the 197-pound weight class. Nelson recorded three straight pins to get to the championship bout. He then beat Matthew Meuleners of Northern State in the final with a 3-2 decision.
Eggum said the team’s higher weights will be one of its strengths this season. He said he was especially impressed with the way Schiller has transitioned into the starting lineup early in the year.
Minnesota will battle Nebraska next weekend in its first Big Ten dual of the season.