For the first time since 2008, the Big Ten Wrestling Championships will be hosted in Minnesota.
While the conference season concluded the last weekend in February for the rest of the Big Ten, the Gophers (14-3, 7-2 Big Ten) have had an extended break as their final regular season dual against Rider was canceled.
Although an extended break could cause some rustiness in play, members of the Gophers wrestling team are confident in, not only the team’s ability, but in their usage of the time off.
“I think the biggest thing was making [the wrestlers] realize that nothing changes,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “As you go out and compete at these bigger events, the more focused you are on keeping things simple, the better you’ll wrestle.”
Carson Brolsma said the break was appreciated.
“I think it helped us a lot. While, obviously, we want to focus on wrestling and do well at Big Tens, they gave us a few days off to relax, which I think is a really good thing,” Brolsma said.
As the Gophers head into the weekend, they are one of the five programs in the Big Ten to have each wrestler ranked in their respective weight classes.
Each class will be a battle to the top, and Eggum said the Big Ten Championships feels more like a national championship tournament.
“If you want to wrestle against the best guys in the country, the Big Ten crushes all other conferences,” Eggum said. “It’s a mini-national tournament, no question about it.”
Nine of the 10 NCAA weight classes are topped by someone from the Big Ten as of March 6. Notable among them is top-ranked heavyweight Gable Steveson.
“We’ve watched this guy compete at the highest level and we’ve known he’s been able to be one of the best guys in the country,” Eggum said.
For Minnesota, 125-pound Sean Russell received the No. 3 seed, and 149-pound Tommy Thorn the No. 4. 174-pound Devin Skatzka, in his first year as a Gopher, received the No. 5 seed.
Three wrestlers — Mitch McKee, Steve Bleise and Ethan Lizak — nabbed the No. 6 seed in their respective 141, 157 and 133 classes.
Dylan Anderson at 197 received the No. 7 seed, and Brolsma at 165 received the No. 8 seed. 184-pound Brandon Krone was also seeded No. 12.
"We could have had zero guys seeded, but it's all about going out there and being able to compete," Brolsma said.
Although Minnesota has been wrestling all year, Brolsma and Eggum both emphasized that those were just preparations for the final two tournaments.
“We want to perform and peak at the right time,” Brolsma said. “Our coaches emphasize that the guys who do the best in the post season are those who are excited, and I think being in the Big Ten prepares for you for that.”
The Big Ten Championships will be held at Williams Arena on Saturday and Sunday.