Gophers head East for National Duals
The Gophers wrestling team finished off its regular season and won a share of the Big Ten dual-season championship by beating Nebraska 26-7 on Sunday.
“It was really exciting, just being a freshman and knowing that we have such a young team and to accomplish what we did,” freshman Dylan Ness (149 pounds) said.
Minnesota will now travel to Piscataway, N.J., to compete in the first leg of the National Wrestling Coaches Association/Cliff Keen National Duals. The final four of the National Duals will commence the following weekend at a site to be determined. The final stanza of the tournament will be reseeded.
The Gophers are the top seed in the Rutgers Regional, which also features Michigan, Missouri, Cal Poly, Kent State and Rutgers.
Minnesota will wrestle its first match of the day against the winner of Kent State and Rutgers. Michigan will take on the victor of the Missouri and Cal Poly match.
If Minnesota wins the Rutgers Regional, there is a possibility that the Gophers could host the final four at home, according to head assistant coach Brandon Eggum.
“If we win our region we’ve got a good chance of having the final four,” Eggum said. “So that would be a great advantage. It’s a great motivational tool I think in some ways — we’re telling our guys what a great opportunity we have to wrestle back home here again instead of going back on the road.”
The hosts of the other regionals are Cornell, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Those matches will take place Sunday.
Cornell and Oklahoma State are the favorites to win their respective regions, while Iowa is the favorite of the regional in Ames, Iowa.
The Gophers defeated Michigan, the second-ranked team in the Rutgers regional, 23-15 earlier this season.
“I think looking at the other side of the bracket, we wrestled Michigan once in a dual and we won six of the 10 matches against them,” Eggum said. “There were obviously some great matches in that dual, so we have to wrestle well because that was a pretty tight dual.”
Eggum said that with some adjustments he thinks the Gophers could win a couple of matches that they lost the first time they tangled with the Wolverines.
Although the regular season has drawn to a close, in some ways the action is just beginning, said Chris Dardanes (133).
“[Winning the Big Ten] means a good deal. Obviously our season’s not over, and it’s not the greatest prize,” Dardanes said. “It does mean a lot. … The seniors on the team never got that and that I was a part of it seems pretty special.”
Regardless of Minnesota’s first-round opponent, it will hold a distinct advantage in terms of ranked wrestlers. The Golden Flashes of Kent State have four ranked wrestlers and host Rutgers has three. Minnesota has a ranked wrestler at every weight class except 157 pounds.
Mario Mason (149) spent his redshirt freshman season at Minnesota before transferring to Rutgers. Mason went 19-11 during his only season for the Gophers.