Fast starts seemed to be a theme for the Minnesota wrestling team this weekend, although they didn’t always pay off.
The No. 12 Gophers (5-3, 4-2 Big Ten) lost to No. 5 Nebraska (10-1, 3-1 Big Ten) 21-11 on Friday night, but rebounded to defeat Indiana (7-5, 0-3 Big Ten) 28-9 on the road Sunday afternoon.
The Gophers lost all five matches under 165 pounds but had the Huskers on upset alert early on Friday night and won four of the first five matches to take an 11-3 lead in the dual.
Perhaps the most exciting match came at 197 pounds, where Minnesota’s No. 2 Brett Pfarr and Nebraska’s No. 7 Aaron Studebaker were locked in a tight match, tied at 3 in the third period.
With just seconds remaining, Pfarr earned what appeared to be a takedown to give him the match, however it was not scored, sending the match to overtime. Minnesota interim head coach Brandon Eggum challenged the call, and after some time at the monitor, the referees awarded Pfarr the takedown and the match.
“I knew that we were short time,” Pfarr said. “I just had to make something happen.”
The points were crucial for the Gophers at the time, extending their lead to five — a lead which would be again bolstered by a Michael Kroells decision at Heavyweight.
A Nebraska pin at 125 pounds just after the half seemed to change the tone of the contest, however, and the Huskers never looked back and won the remaining four matches and the dual at the Sports Pavilion.
The match featured seven ranked wrestlers from each team,
“We felt like this was a match that we let slip away from us,” Eggum said.
Two days later, the Gophers traveled to Indiana for another Big Ten matchup against the unranked Hoosiers.
Again, Minnesota dominated early, as Pfarr, heavyweight Michael Kroells and 125-pounder Ethan Lizak gave the Gophers three straight technical falls to start the dual.
“We’re always trying to improve on what’s expected,” Kroells said. “If we’re supposed to beat a guy, we want to beat him by a lot of points. If it’s supposed to be a close match, we want to major the guy … it made it a lot easier for the other guys to finish out the dual.”
Unlike Friday night’s dual, Minnesota’s lower weights wrestled aggressively, allowing escape points in exchange for takedowns in rapid succession.
The Gophers showed none of the signs of vulnerability that plagued them against the Huskers and instead took a 22-0 lead through the first five matches.
“We talked a little bit about bonus points before the match started,” Eggum said. “[Bonus points] won’t just happen if you don’t work on it daily, so that was our focus heading into the dual.”
Although the Gophers dropped matches at 149, 174and 184 pounds, they kept the dual margin comfortable and left Indiana with a victory to learn from.
“We’ll have to get after it and keep looking to do what we did today, which was scoring points,” junior Jake Short said.