No. 1 Minnesota Prepares for Test in the Tropics

The Gophers are one of four teams competing in Tuesday’s inaugural Aloha Open in Honolulu

As winter returns to the Twin Cities this week, the top-ranked Gophers are enjoying some tropical weather in Honolulu as they prepare for the inaugural Aloha Open on Tuesday, December 30. The event begins at 10 a.m. local time, which translates to 2 p.m. Central time, and is expected to conclude at approximately 11 p.m. CT.

As was shared in the tournament overview last week, not only is the event’s location different than traditional winter tournaments, the format is as well. Four teams will compete in the event – No. 1 Minnesota, No. 20 Oregon State, Oklahoma and American University – but the competition is neither a quad meet nor a usual tournament bracket where wrestlers advance by winning and are eliminated after two defeats. Each of the 10 weight classes will be set up to compete in a round-robin, so every wrestler at a specific weight will wrestle every other competitor, regardless of previous wins and losses. Those with the best records following the round-robin will be the champions at each weight class and qualify for an off-season trip with Team USA to compete internationally.

Minnesota GophersThe number of wrestlers from each school also defies convention, as teams are permitted to enter more than one competitor at each weight class. This means some weights may have competitors wrestle in four or five matches during the event.

In the Gophers’ case, 12 wrestlers will compete in the Aloha Open. There will be one grappler in Maroon and Gold at each weight, but a pair of Minnesota wrestlers will compete at two weight classes: 133, where both No. 2 Chris Dardanes and Jordan Kingsley will wrestle, and 165, which will feature both No. 18 Nick Wanzek and Brandon Kingsley. In addition to these four, Minnesota’s full, expected lineup for tomorrow’s competition includes: Jordan Bremer (125), Conrad Rangell (141), Jake Short (149), No. 1 Dylan Ness (157), No. 3 Logan Storley (174), No. 11 Brett Pfarr (184), No. 2 Scott Schiller (197) and No. 12 Michael Kroells (285).

Looking across the other three teams in the Aloha Open field, Oregon State will look the most familiar to the Gophers and Gopher fans. While Minnesota has not wrestled head-to-head against Oklahoma in the past decade and has not seen American in dual action since 2006, the Gophers have taken on Oregon State in each of the past two seasons, defeating the Beavers 21-18 at the Sports Pavilion in 2012 before a visit to Corvallis last season, where the Gophers won 28-12.

Despite that familiarity, only one Gopher will be settling in for a rematch from either of those two duals, primarily due to Oregon State’s young starting lineup that includes six freshmen and weight changes by both No. 20 Alex Elder, who dropped from 165 to 157 this season, and No. 6 Taylor Meeks, who dropped from 197 to 184. That one rematch will pit Storley against Oregon State’s Joe Latham. Storley defeated Latham 12-7 at the Pav last season.

Outside of Minnesota, Oregon State has had the most success this season among the four teams in the field. The Beavers are 3-0, with wins over Southern Oregon, Arizona State and Boise State. Most recently, OSU placed second at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 21. Meanwhile, Oklahoma also competed in the Reno event on Dec. 21, placing sixth. Previous to that, the Sooners had lost four consecutive duals after sweeping three victories in a season-opening quad meet. Three of OU’s four losses this year have come against top 10 opponents – Cornell, Missouri and Oklahoma State. The fourth came to Big Ten newcomer Rutgers. American has a 3-1 record in duals this season, with victories over Campbell, UNC Pembroke and Lindsey Wilson, balanced by a loss to N.C. State.

Minnesota has one shared point in its schedule with each of its three opponents. With Oklahoma, it’s a common dual opponent in the form of Oklahoma State, which Minnesota defeated 19-15 in November before the Sooners fell to the Cowboys 25-11 earlier this month. For Oregon State and American, that intersection occurred in Las Vegas at the Cliff Keen Invitational on Dec. 5 and 6. The Gophers won the team title in that event, while the Beavers placed tenth and the Eagles place 32nd.

Looking at individuals, the anticipated field will include a total of 14 ranked wrestlers, half of which are Gophers. Oregon State boasts three ranked competitors (at 125, 157 and 184), Oklahoma matches that total (at 133, 157, 285) and American’s roster includes the final ranked wrestler in the event – No. 18 David Terao at 125, a Hawaii native.

The lineup of ranked wrestlers will create up to seven ranked-versus-ranked matches, five of which will include a Gopher wrestler. The highest profile of these matchups is at 133, where Dardanes will take on No. 3 Cody Brewer of Oklahoma. The two have met once previously in their collegiate careers, a 10-5 Dardanes victory at the 2013 NCAA Championships en route to his second consecutive All-American season. Of the six remaining ranked-versus-ranked matches, three will take place at 157, where Ness will face Elder of Oregon State and No. 11 Justin DeAngelis of Oklahoma. Ness has not faced either wrestler in his collegiate career. The other two ranked Gophers who will face ranked opponents are Pfarr, who will face Meeks of Oregon State at 184, and Kroells, who will take on No. 11 Ross Larson of Oklahoma.

As mentioned earlier, the Aloha Open is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Central time. There are multiple ways for fans to follow the action from the Aloha State.

Streaming: Flowrestling.org will be streaming the event live here. Viewing the site’s video stream requires a FloPRO subscription.
Live stats: TrackWrestling.com will be offering live stats of all the event’s matches.
Twitter: As always, the Gopher Wrestling Twitter feed will be providing updates throughout the day. Be sure to follow, not just for the latest happenings tomorrow, but to stay updated on all the news surrounding the program.

Following the conclusion of tomorrow’s event, a recap will be posted on GopherSports.com.

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