LINCOLN, Neb. — Defending Big Ten champion Kevin Steinhaus was in a familiar situation Friday night in Nebraska.
Steinhaus was deadlocked with Josh Ihnen in a rematch of the Big Ten title match at 184 pounds last season. His team had the dual well in the bag at that point, but Steinhaus kept battling.
“I was checking [the clock] a lot of times in the breaks,” he said, “but when I looked over and there was 13 seconds left, I was like, ‘I’ve got to make something happen.’”
He did. Steinhaus shot in at Ihnen’s legs to create space and managed a dramatic last-second takedown to win the bout 3-1.
That match was a microcosm of the entire weekend for the Gophers.
No. 1 Minnesota dominated the Huskers 27-7 on Friday night and shellacked Boise State 30-6 on Sunday afternoon. The Gophers only lost two matches in each dual and were aided by a quick start on both days.
Heavyweight Tony Nelson got the ball rolling Friday with a beatdown of Donny Longendyke. Nelson had the upper-hand all match, and he coasted to an 11-2 win.
Minnesota won the next three matches, dropped two and won the final four bouts.
Steinhaus said it was vital to grab a big lead early in the team’s first Big Ten dual of the season.
The Gophers built a big lead and took Nebraska out of the dual well before it could reach its strongest weights.
“We knew their core strength was going to be in the middle, so it was nice to come out and … get that pace set early with a commanding lead,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the guys.”
Besides Steinhaus, Eggum said he was impressed with how 157-pound Brad Dolezal wrestled Friday night.
Dolezal faced All-American James Green of the Huskers and surprised many with his ability to stick around. Green won 14-9, but Dolezal displayed the grit that the earned him the starting spot at 157.
“We’re impressed with Brad,” Eggum said. “And as far as his effort, he did a good job. It was a good step for him and something he can build some confidence on.”
Minnesota wrestled Friday night in Nebraska, flew back Saturday and wrestled again Sunday afternoon. The busy schedule had no obvious effect on the squad.
Scott Schiller, who closed out the dual for the Gophers on Friday, ignited the home crowd with a pin Sunday against Boise State. Schiller was third on the docket as both Logan Storley and Steinhaus won in the first two matches.
Schiller struck with his first pin of the season less than two minutes into his match.
“I got his arm behind his back, then I just crowbarred his head and put him on his back from there,” Schiller said.
His pin gave Minnesota a 13-0 lead early in the dual, and it never looked back.
The Gophers lost at 149 pounds and 157 pounds — the same weights it lost Friday.
Still, the team had built up such an advantage by those matches, the losses were almost inconsequential.
“It’s a morning dual — a lot of people don’t like to wrestle,” Schiller said, “so if you get pressure on them right away, it makes a big difference for the momentum of our team.”
Despite the early season dominance, head coach J Robinson is not yet fully impressed with his team.
“We wrestled aggressively, and I think that was good … but I think at the same time some of our guys still aren’t scoring enough points,” he said. “We’ve got to generate more offense to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”