Thanks to three technical falls and two major decisions, the Gophers wrestling team defeated Purdue 29-12 on Sunday in West Lafayette, Indiana.
No. 12 Minnesota (6-3, 5-2 Big Ten) got off to a quick start in the first match of the day, as redshirt sophomore and No. 6 Ethan Lizak earned a technical fall at 125 pounds. The early five point lead got the Gophers rolling, said head coach Brandon Eggum.
“It was a great start,” he said. “Lizak’s dangerous, especially from the top, and he did a really good job.”
The Boilermakers (8-5, 3-4 Big Ten) refused to go quietly, however, and earned decisions at 133 and 149 pounds to trim the Minnesota lead to just two.
With one match remaining before the half, the dual was up for grabs — enter Jake Short.
The redshirt junior earned a major decision at 157 pounds to put Minnesota ahead by six going into the break.
The Gophers capitalized on the momentum following halftime when No. 15 Nick Wanzek earned Minnesota’s second consecutive major decision at 165 pounds, which gave the Gophers a 10-point lead with just four matches — and two of Minnesota’s best wrestlers — remaining.
“It’s always nice to get a couple extra points [from major decisions],” Wanzek said. “At the end, you never know what the score is going to turn out to be … those bonus points are a huge deal.”
A Purdue pin of Chris Pfarr at 174 pounds made things interesting again, but redshirt freshman Bobby Steveson shut the door with a decision at 184 for a seven-point Gophers lead with their two best wrestlers on deck to finish the dual.
Steveson, who is originally from Indiana, had not won a match in a dual meet since Dec. 11 at Michigan.
“I think it was a good win for myself, coming in with a few losses,” Steveson said. “Finally getting a win boosts the confidence and shows that the game plan I’ve been going with, and everything else, is coming together.”
No. 2 Brett Pfarr and No. 8 Michael Kroells took care of business at 197 and heavyweight, respectively, marking the second straight match that the pair, along with Lizak, have earned technical falls.
“It takes a lot of pressure off everybody else … having those guys anchor us down at the end there is a huge key to our success,” Wanzek said.
The Gophers’ 29 team points were the most they’ve put up in a dual this season.
Looming next on Minnesota’s schedule is a date with No. 3 Iowa, another Big Ten rivalry that looks to be a tough matchup for the Gophers.
“Iowa’s a great team,” Eggum said. “We’re going to need some guys to step up and do some great things if we want to win that dual.”