For Minnesota, a victory was never in doubt at Maturi Pavilion.
In the first dual of the season, the Gophers won all but two matches and defeated Air Force 29-6 Sunday afternoon at Maturi Pavilion.
“Overall, it was good,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “Some guys could have wrestled a bit better match I think, but in general, [I’m] pretty happy with the efforts.”
Mitch McKee provided six points via the pin at 133. Minnesota also benefited from a strong performance by redshirt freshman Hunter Marko at 149. Marko earned the Gophers four team points by winning a major decision 16-2.
“Today I felt like I wrestled pretty good,” Marko said. “I was happy with the outcome today, but I still think that there are a lot of areas I can continue to grow in and improve as well.”
Sophomore Owen Webster made his collegiate debut on Sunday. Webster won his match 5-0 at 184 and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“[My] hands and feet got a little tired, but it felt good,” Webster said. “[I was] trying to get to my offense and scored good in the first period, rode him out pretty good, but the other two periods I didn’t really get any offense going. Other than that, the atmosphere was great and it felt good.”
Ethan Lizak, Jake Short, Nick Wanzek, Chris Pfarr and Rylee Streifel all won their matches on Sunday as well. It was a performance that could give the team confidence down the stretch, Eggum said.
“Confidence obviously is the big thing,” he said. “You know momentum is important and when you get momentum rolling in the right direction, it’s hard to stop a team that’s going in that direction."
Though the Gophers win was never in doubt on Sunday, the team has room for improvement. Both Marko and Webster said that there were areas they wish could get better. Eggum also wants to see his team make improvements as the season progresses, especially when it comes to pace and intensity.
“I think we all know that when you’re competing, a lot of the battle isn’t just physical, it’s also mental,” Eggum said. “We got guys that can do amazing things. When their mind is in the right spot, they wrestle great and they beat some of the best guys, but there’s also times that they can slow themselves down."