No. 1 Minnesota has been nothing short of dominant this year, with the exception of its one loss to Michigan in January.
Aside from that match, the Gophers have won every dual — and most of them in resounding fashion.
And for most of the season, No. 5-ranked 197-pounder Scott Schiller has proven to be no less impressive — until the last week and a half.
After starting the year 24-0, Schiller held the top ranking until he dropped a match against No. 3 Morgan McIntosh of Penn State. Then, just a week later, he lost again — this time to No. 4 Nick Heflin of Ohio State.
This week, however, the stage is set for Schiller to bounce back and get the momentum rolling again into the postseason.
He will face Iowa State 197-pounder Kyven Gadson this weekend in Ames, Iowa. Gadson is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class and has only two losses on the year.
His two losses have both come to Schiller.
Gophers head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said Schiller is unbeatable when he’s on his game.
“He’s the best 197-pounder in the country, no doubt about it,” Eggum said. “When he’s on, he’s on.”
Schiller’s two wins over the current No. 1-ranked member of his weight class justify that claim. His losses to No. 3 and No. 4 wrestlers cloud his rÃ©sumÃ©, though.
Eggum said he doesn’t think the clouds on Schiller’s rÃ©sumÃ© fog the wrestler’s mind.
“He’s smart enough to know there are ups and downs in the season,” Eggum said. “And he knows you have to put those things aside if you want to be successful and get to the top of the podium.”
A third win against the top-ranked wrestler in the country should help eradicate his two losses. It won’t be easy against a guy like Gadson, though.
Still, in most big matches this season, Schiller found a way to rise to the occasion. He said the key is focusing and wrestling the same as always.
“You have to treat every match the same,” he said before the team took on then-No. 1 Penn State two weekends ago. “It doesn’t matter who you’re wrestling or how many fans are in the stands — every week is just an opportunity to get better.”
Eggum said Schiller’s past success against Gadson is the result of Schiller’s dominance in the neutral position.
“Gadson is a great wrestler,” Eggum said, “but he’s had a hard time getting his offense going because Scott is so good at keeping his opponents out of position.”
This is the final dual meet of the season for the Gophers and will offer another opportunity to solidify their No. 1 ranking against another ranked team.
Minnesota is 10-1 against ranked opponents this year.
A win for the Gophers will guarantee a No. 1 ranking going into postseason play.
A win for Schiller, however, will be a loud statement to the rest of the country — a statement that he’s ready to go at the end of the year.