Unfamiliar foes, renewed rivalries and a challenging Big Ten highlight this year’s slate for Minnesota
Gopher Wrestling today released its schedule for the upcoming 2015-16 season. The 18-dual slate will bring nine opponents to Minneapolis this winter, three of which will be making their first-ever visit to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In addition to the firsts on this year’s schedule, Minnesota will be returning to events and reigniting rivalries that were not as part of last season’s lineup.
“This year’s schedule is a good schedule for us. Every year it changes based on our needs,” said head coach J Robinson, who enters his 30th season as the leader of the Gopher Wrestling program this winter. “We’re going to have a younger team this year. Our schedule is going to allow our guys to get some early competition, which I think is important. That will allow us to see where our kids really are against national competition and what we have to do to get where we need to be by the end of the season.”
Minnesota will open its season with a pair of multiple-dual events, first at home with the Gopher Duals on Saturday, November 7 and then with a trip to upstate New York for the Northeast Duals the following Sunday (November 15).
The Gopher Duals, which will be held at Williams Arena, will bring Virginia, South Dakota State and Grand Canyon to town. The Duals will mark Virginia’s first visit to Minnesota — the teams have met twice previously in the 1987 and 1992 Virginia Duals, with the Gophers winning both matches. It will be Grand Canyon’s second trip to Minneapolis, the first coming last year when the Gophers defeated the Antelopes, 36-8. For South Dakota State, it will be just the second dual with the Gophers in the past 35 years, the other coming in 2008.
In its trip to New York, the team will face N.C. State, North Carolina and Lehigh. None of these three foes are particularly familiar to Minnesota — Lehigh has not appeared on the schedule since 2005, the last match against N.C. State happened 26 years ago and the Gophers have never taken on North Carolina. The event is also a new look on the Minnesota schedule. It will be the program’s first appearance in the Northeast Duals since 2006.
Non-conference opponents bookend the slate at the Sports Pavilion this season, starting with Air Force on Saturday, November 21. Minnesota defeated Air Force, 28-15, in the team’s season-opener last November in Colorado Springs. That victory improved Minnesota’s all-time record against the Academy to 5-0. On the back end of the schedule, Minnesota will welcome Iowa State to close out the regular season on Sunday, February 21. The two last met in 2014, a dual the Gophers won, 28-6. Minnesota has won its last three head-to-head meetings against the Cyclones.
Minnesota has one true road dual on this season’s schedule, a trip to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State on Sunday, November 29. It will be the 28th time since 1992 that the two nationally elite programs have faced each other, the most for the Gophers against any non-conference opponent in that time. The Gophers defeated the Cowboys, 19-15, on the same date last season at the Pav, extending their winning streak in the series to three in a row and four of the last five.
The home half of Minnesota’s conference schedule will feature the team’s Big Ten opener against Indiana on Friday, December 11, as well as January dates against Purdue (Sunday, January 24) and the two newest additions to the Big Ten, Maryland (Friday, January 8) and Rutgers (Sunday, January 17). The Gophers hold winning records in the all-time series against all four of those programs, though the history with Indiana and Purdue dates back significantly further than the other two. In fact, Maryland and Rutgers will both make their first trips to the Twin Cities this season. In their respective visits to the Pav, both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers will try to break streaks against the Gophers. Minnesota has won 13 straight, and 30 of the last 31, head-to-head battles with Indiana. In its series with Purdue, the Maroon and Gold have won seven straight and 14 of the last 15.
The road portion of the team’s Big Ten schedule sends Minnesota to Nebraska in early January, then to Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Illinois for four consecutive duals at the end of the month and into mid-February. Two of those opponents, Nebraska and Wisconsin, are returning to Minnesota’s schedule after brief hiatuses — a one-year break with the Badgers and a two-year break with the Huskers. The Gophers will put a pair of winning streaks on the line with their visits to the state of Illinois, first their 13-match winning streak against Northwestern, then their five-match win streak against Illinois. Minnesota will be looking to avenge a home loss in front of a massive home crowd last season when it travels to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. Iowa is the only opponent Minnesota will face this season that won its last dual against the Gophers.
In addition to the 18 duals on the Minnesota schedule, the team will also be represented at two in-season tournaments. The first will bring the Gophers to Las Vegas in early December to defend their team title at the Cliff Keen Invitational, which Minnesota won last year against a loaded field that included eventual national champion, Ohio State. To start the new year, Minnesota will return to the Southern Scuffle field after a one-year sabbatical. The team placed third in the event in its last appearance, in 2014.
Though the whistle to begin the first match of the season’s first dual won’t sound for another 11 weeks, you can keep up with everything happening as the team prepares for the upcoming season by staying tuned to GopherSports.com and by following Gopher Wrestling on Facebook and Twitter.