No. 1 Minnesota Returns to Big Ten Action

After nearly three weeks away, the Gophers will host No. 17 Michigan at the Sports Pavilion this Friday at 8 p.m. CT in a dual that will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network

Fresh off a successful trip to Hawaii that produced six individual titles at the inaugural Aloha Open for No. 1 Minnesota, the Gophers return to dual competition this Friday night when No. 17 Michigan visits the Sports Pavilion for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Gophers bring a 6-0 record, including a 2-0 conference mark, into the contest, while the Wolverines will arrive in Minneapolis at 2-1 overall. The dual will the conference-opener for Michigan this season. Including Friday’s meet, all three of the Gophers’ conference duals have been the Big Ten-opener for their opponent.

For Minnesota, Friday’s dual offers an opportunity to avenge the team’s only dual loss in the past 723 days. The Wolverines defeated Minnesota 19-14 last January in Ann Arbor, a loss that snapped the team’s winning streak in duals at 12. Since the defeat, the Gophers have built a 13-match winning streak which they will put on the line Friday.

Minnesota GophersIn last year’s matchup, Michigan built a 16-3 lead over the meet’s first six bouts, losing only at 133 when David Thorn defeated Rossi Bruno by decision. The Gophers rallied with major decisions from Logan Storley and Scott Schiller and a decision from Kevin Steinhaus, narrowing the score to 16-14 heading to heavyweight, where then-No. 1 Adam Coon defeated then-No. 2 Tony Nelson in sudden victory overtime to seal the win for the Wolverines. Michigan will wrestle as many as six starters from last year’s dual, a group that posted a combined 3-3 record in that meet, a number Minnesota may match with six men who went 2-4 in the last meeting.

Whether returning starters or newcomers to the lineup, Friday’s dual promises plenty of exciting action, as both teams are loaded with ranked wrestlers. Reviewing the probable starters, there will be as many as 15 ranked wrestlers in action, which sets up as many as six ranked-versus-ranked matches. Presently, 125 appears to be the only bout that will not feature at least one ranked wrestler.

Looking at some of the top expected matchups, two will be rematches from the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas five weeks ago, where Minnesota captured the team title and Michigan placed seventh. At 133, No. 1 Chris Dardanes will put his undefeated record (14-0) on the line against No. 8 Rossi Bruno. The two met for the 133 title in Vegas, with Dardanes prevailing 8-3. Looking to the other end of the bout card, at 285, No. 13 Michael Kroells will challenge No. 8 Adam Coon. Coon knocked off Kroells 3-2 in the heavyweight third-place match at Cliff Keen.

Outside of these rematches, No. 1 Dylan Ness will have an opportunity to avenge a loss in last year’s dual and remain undefeated this season when he takes on No. 19 Brian Murphy. Murphy earned a 5-3 decision over Ness last January.

Three other weights may potentially offer fans matches pitting ranked wrestlers against each other: 165 with No. 18 Nick Wanzek and No. 10 Taylor Massa; 184 with No. 10 Brett Pfarr and No. 13 Domenic Abounader; and, 197 with No. 1 Scott Schiller and No. 9 Max Huntley.

Michigan is one of just two Big Ten teams to hold a winning record against Minnesota in its all-time series against the Gophers. Minnesota is 28-31-2 against the Wolverines since the two first tussled back in 1944. Prior to Michigan’s victory last winter, Minnesota had won three consecutive duals against the Wolverines, a streak that stretched back to the 2008-09 season.

Though it may not feel that way in light of the break from dual action, Friday will be the fifth consecutive home dual for Minnesota after opening with a pair of road duals back on November 15. The home mat at the Sports Pavilion has been kind to Minnesota in recent seasons, as the Maroon and Gold have rattled off 13 consecutive home dual victories dating back to January, 2012. The Gophers have also won their last 12 home Big Ten duals, a streak that began in February, 2011.

Friday night is also military appreciation night at the Pavilion. Members of the military had the opportunity to claim complementary tickets to the event and the first 200 active military members to enter the building will receive a free Gopher Wrestling stocking cap.

For fans that aren’t able to make it the Pavilion on Friday, the dual will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network beginning at 8 p.m. CT. The match will also be available to stream online via the BTN2Go app. Those looking for the Minnesota perspective can follow live updates throughout the match on the Gopher Wrestling Twitter feed and find a full recap on GopherSports.com following the event.

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