St. Louis — Three pins propelled the Gophers wrestling team to a strong first session Thursday, and Minnesota didn’t stop there.
Minnesota advanced eight of its nine wrestlers in the championship bracket after day one of the 2012 NCAA championships at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The Gophers sit in second place and five points behind first-place Penn State. They were also in second place after the morning session of the tournament. Minnesota trailed the Nittany Lions by only half a point, 25.5 to 25, at the session break.
Minnesota trails Penn State by five points for the team title.
The Gophers wrestling team had three losses in duals this season. On Sunday it will get a chance to avenge at least one of those.
“I definitely think that’s a high motivator for us as a team,” Cody Yohn (165 pounds) said. “Having the fact that it’s more or less a shot at redemption to beat these teams that we know we can beat.”
Minnesota (12-3, 7-1 Big Ten) will get a rematch with Iowa in the first round of the National Wrestlers Coaching Association National Duals final four. Iowa hosted the Gophers in late January and beat them 19-17.
Minnesota might get the chance to avenge two losses from earlier this season.
With former heavyweight national champion Brock Lesnar on the bench for the first half, the Gophers wrestling team defeated Nebraska 26-7 to capture a share of the Big Ten Conference’s regular season dual meet crown.
“[Winning the Big Ten] is big, because everybody’s in it,” head coach J Robinson said. “We wrestled everybody. We wrestled all the top teams. So it’s great because they earned it, this team earned that championship.”
No. 4 Minnesota won eight of 10 matches against Nebraska.
When the Gophers face Nebraska Sunday at the Sports Pavilion, the team will likely be wrestling for at least a share of the Big Ten’s regular season title.
Minnesota (9-3, 6-1 Big Ten) has only one conference dual remaining and currently sits alone atop the conference standings.
Nebraska and Penn State are tied for second with a 5-1 record, but each has two duals this weekend. What’s interesting is that Nebraska and Penn State wrestle each other on Friday, meaning that both teams cannot lose both matches.
No. 4 Minnesota will face No. 7 Nebraska for a shot at the Big Ten title.