The Gophers wrestling team opened their season Friday, earning a 28-9 dual victory over Cal State Bakersfield at home.
The dual started with the 125-pound wrestlers, and No. 24 Patrick McKee made quick work of his opponent, Alex Hernandez-Figueroa. McKee landed a takedown, picked up near fall points and got the pin, all within the first minute of the first period. With the fall win, McKee got the Gophers off to a quick 6-0 start in his first career dual. The redshirt freshman soaked in the experience.
"It felt kind of surreal," he said. "I've been coming to Gopher duals since I was 8-years-old and watching all the greats grow up before me. It was kind of cool that now it's my turn to run out there."
With McKee getting the Gophers off to a quick start, it was 133-pound Brent Jones' turn, as he took on Bakersfield's Chance Rich. Rich led 4-3 after the first period, but Jones tied it at four in the second with an escape. Rich took over again in the third, scoring on an escape and landing a takedown to get the 7-4 decision. The Gophers still led, 6-3.
At 141 pounds, it was time for the older McKee, No. 4 Mitch McKee. Mitch didn't finish as quickly as his little brother, but he took the major decision 15-5 over his opponent Angelo Martinoni, landing three takedowns in the first period and a reversal in the second. McKee's win started a string of six straight victories, that moved their lead from 6-3 to 28-3.
Brayton Lee, at 149 pounds, scored an 8-7 decision in his first collegiate match, followed by wins from Carson Brolsma in overtime, Bailee O'Reilly, Devin Skatzka, who earned a technical fall, and Owen Webster in a major decision.
The Gophers hit some road blocks in the heavier weight classes. Garret Joles, at 197 pounds, fell to No. 24 Dominic Ducharme. Ducharme landed takedowns in the first and second, and his escapes in the second and third were enough to take the 6-4 decision over Joles.
At heavyweight, senior Chase O'Connor got the start for the Gophers and took on redshirt junior Jarrod Snyder. After a scoreless first, Snyder put up the first point on an escape in the second. O'Connor matched in the third and appeared to have a takedown with five seconds left in the period to secure the win, but a Bakersfield challenge reversed the call and sent it to overtime. It was still 1-1 after the first, but Synder scored on an escape and a takedown in the second to secure the 4-1 decision.
In the end, the late matchup losses didn't prevent the Gophers from opening their season with a win.
"We know we got a lot of things to work on. That's kind of what was expected coming into this dual," head coach Brandon Eggum said. "You see a lot of guys doing different things we got to improve, being more basic. But overall, like the guys effort first night. Some of the young guys came out and really fought hard and showed they were excited to be on the mat."