Gophers Head to No. 10 Michigan, Host No. 3 Penn State Sunday

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota returns to action this weekend with a pair of duals against nationally ranked opponents — taking on No. 10 Michigan on Friday at 6 p.m. CST in Ann Arbor before hosting No. 3 Penn State at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the Sports Pavilion.

Michigan (10-3 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) is coming off a split last weekend, taking down Wisconsin 26-9 last Friday but losing to Penn State 28-13 two days later in Ann Arbor for their first loss at home this year (the Wolverines are 3-1 at Cliff Keen Arena in 2010-11). The loss also snapped a six-dual winning streak for Michigan dating back to Jan. 8 (a 24-12 loss also to Penn State in the finals of the Virginia Duals). Michigan features five wrestlers ranked by Intermat including 141 lbs. redshirt junior Kellen Russell, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Intermat. Russell is 27-0 this season.

Penn State (15-1, 4-1) waltzed into the state of Michigan last weekend and came home with a pair of wins — taking down Michigan State 30-9 on Friday before beating the Wolverines on Sunday. The sweep put the Nittany Lions back on track after the program suffered its first loss of the season to Iowa (22-13) on Jan. 30. Penn State lists eight nationally ranked wrestlers on its roster including six grapplers ranked in the top-ten.

Big Ten Network Coverage
The Big Ten Network will give fans who can’t make it out to see the Gophers live a chance to watch this weekend’s action. Friday’s dual at Michigan will be streamed online at BigTenNetwork.com (subscription required). Meanwhile, Sunday’s showdown of top-five teams will be aired by the network on tape delay at 9:30 p.m. on 2/13 and again on 2/15 at 7 p.m.

Big Ten Network Coverage
The Big Ten Network will give fans who can’t make it out to see the Gophers live a chance to watch this weekend’s action. Friday’s dual at Michigan will be streamed online at BigTenNetwork.com (subscription required). Meanwhile, Sunday’s showdown of top-five teams will be aired by the network on tape delay at 9:30 p.m. on 2/13 and again on 2/15 at 7 p.m.

Match of the Meets
Each and every Gopher wrestling match is full of excitement and entertainment but this weekend two bouts stand out among the rest. Minnesota’s Mike Thorn (31-1) will have his hands full this weekend when he faces off against two of the elite wrestlers in the nation. He opens the weekend on Friday against the only man who has beaten him this year — Michigan’s Kellen Russell. Thorn, the No. 2 wrestler  at 141 lbs., dropped a 6-2 decision to top-ranked Russell in the finals of the Southern Scuffle on Dec. 29. Minnesota’s All-American currently leads all Big Ten wrestler’s with 31 wins this season. Russell ranks second in the conference’s 141 lbs. bracket with a 27-0 record while Thorn’s opponent on Sunday, No. 7 Andrew Alton, ranks third at 25-4.

Every Point Counts
Redshirt senior Mike Thorn’s 17-0 technical fall over Randall Languis at 141 lbs. last Saturday was just the latest in a long line of victims for the All-American. With a 31-1 overall record (17-0 in duals), Thorn has scored bonus points in over 65 percent of his matches this season (11 pins, seven major decisions, three technical falls).

The Road to Philadelphia
Minnesota has fielded one of the toughest schedules in the country in 2010-11 — having already taken on ten nationally ranked programs with three top-ten teams still to go. The Gophers are 7-3 against ranked opponents this year while all three losses have come against top-five teams.

500 for Robinson
Saturday’s dual at Michigan will mark the 500th dual in the head coaching history of J Robinson. Robinson holds a 370-126-3 coaching record — all at Minnesota — and holds the most wins among active Big Ten coaches.

Getting the Pin
All-American Mike Thorn cracked Minnesota’s top-ten for career pins earlier this year and currently sits tied with Jacob Volkmann for ninth on the school’s all-time list with 34 career pins. Thorn needs one more fall to take sole possession of ninth and four pins to tie Jason Davids (1994-98) and Mack Reiter (2004-08) for seventh on the Gophers’ list. Jayson Ness (2006-10) ranks first in career pins at Minnesota with 73.

Feeling Right at Home
Minnesota is 13-6 all-time against Penn State in a series that dates back to 1985. But the Gophers have been extremely lucky against their conference foe as of late — winning seven in a row against the Nittany Lions. Penn State has not beaten Minnesota since Feb. 6, 1998 while the Nittany Lions have not won at Minnesota since Feb. 8, 1992.  Minnesota is 26-30-2 all-time against Michigan.

Big Ten Tourney Rematch
A rematch of last year’s Big Ten tournament third-place match is possible on Sunday should Penn State’s Brad Pataky compete against Zach Sanders at 125 lbs. Sanders, currently ranked fifth, earned 13-11 sudden victory win over Pataky last year to claim third place at the conference championship.

Two Matches, Two Wins
Twice in the 2010-11 wrestling seasons have Minnesota coaches called on redshirt sophomore Matt Mincey to compete in dual action, and twice has Mincey (10-5 overall)come away with wins despite wrestling in two different weight classes. The Apple Valley, Minn. native opened his dual season on Jan. 21 with a surprising 15-0 tech fall over Purdue’s Tommy Churchard in the 149 lbs. match before tallying an 11-8 decision against Sean Nemec of Ohio State last Saturday in a 157 lbs. match.

Honoring an Icon
Minnesota will honor one of the greatest wrestlers to ever don the Maroon and Gold on Sunday when the program celebrates Ness’ historic career. The four-time All-American was the first Gopher ever to win the prestigious Hodge Trophy and concluded his career with a national championship and a perfect 31-0 season in 2009-10. Ness sits first all-time in career pins (73) and third all-time in career victories (148) at Minnesota.

Robinson Celebrates 25 Years
The University of Minnesota will honor head wrestling coach J Robinson for his 25 years of service to the program during the Gophers’ dual against Iowa next Sunday. Robinson has brought the program to a new level during his tenure including coaching the Gophers to the first three NCAA titles in school history (2001, 2002, 2007).

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