On the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday, the 22nd-ranked Gophers will travel to Stillwater, Okla. for their 28th dual in the past 25 years against the third-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, the latest installment in Minnesota’s most-wrestled non-conference series during that time.
Coming off a victory over Air Force last Saturday, the Gophers will bring a 4-3 record to Gallagher-Iba Arena for the team’s first true road dual of the season after hosting four teams and competing in three neutral site matches at the Northeast Duals in New York. The Cowboys are 0-1 so far this season, dropping their lone dual to Iowa, 18-16, at the Grapple on the Gridiron at Kinnick Stadium on November 14. Prior to taking on the Gophers in its home-opener on Sunday, Oklahoma State will kick-off its Big 12 schedule against conference newcomer South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D. on Friday night. Minnesota defeated South Dakota State, 20-13, earlier this season at the Gopher Duals in Minneapolis.
This weekend’s dual will be the 35th all-time meeting between the two storied programs. The Pokes own a 22-12 advantage, a lead largely built by taking the first eight in the series. In recent years, the Gophers have gotten the better of the Cowboys, taking four of the last five meetings, including the last three. Most recently, Minnesota knocked off Oklahoma State, 19-15, last season at the Sports Pavilion.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s bout card for Sunday, the only scheduled rematch from last November’s contest will be a top-10 battle at heavyweight between No. 9 Michael Kroells and No. 4 Austin Marsden. Marsden took a 6-2 decision over Kroells last season and holds a 2-0 advantage in their head-to-head series at the collegiate level, with a 3-1 decision at the 2014 Southern Scuffle as well.
Though there is a dearth of recurring matchups in Sunday’s dual, the Cowboy lineup will look similar to the one that wrestled in Minneapolis last year. As many as nine of Oklahoma State’s starters from last season’s dual will take the mat this weekend. The only weight that’s sure to show Gopher fans a new face will be 157, where either No. 14 Chance Marstellar or Ryan Blees will wrestle for OK State. Both are redshirt freshmen this season.
Many of the Gophers making the trip to Stillwater will see top-rated competition on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys have top-10 wrestlers at six different weights, including a pair of No. 1s in Dean Heil (141) and two-time defending NCAA champ Alex Dieringer (165). Heil will provide a great test for No. 9 Tommy Thorn at 141. It’s been a gauntlet in recent weeks for first-year starter Thorn. His match against Heil will be his fourth against a top-10 opponent in the past 15 days. The Kroells/Marsden match at 285 will be the only other contest on the card between ranked opponents.
As most Gopher fans know, the Minnesota/Oklahoma State rivalry brings together two wrestling programs to which Head Coach J Robinson has some of his closest ties. Now in his 30th season leading the Gophers, Robinson got his start in college wrestling as a Cowboy grappler, graduating from Oklahoma State in 1969. Robinson played a role in rousing the series from hibernation in the early 1990s and has overseen all 12 Minnesota victories against the Pokes. Robinson is 12-15 against his alma mater as the Gopher head coach.
There are a variety of ways to follow the action from wherever you may be on Sunday afternoon. The event will be streamed live on Flowrestling.org, though viewing the live stream will require a FloPRO subscription. Fans can get live updates from every match by following Gopher Wrestling on Twitter. Live stats also will be available on TrackWrestling.com.