Gophers upset No. 8 Rutgers, 17-16
Sunday’s dual between No. 21 Minnesota and No. 8 Rutgers began at 197 pounds, putting the Gophers’ highest-ranked wrestler on the mat from the outset and No. 4 Brett Pfarr delivered. His technical fall gave the Gophers an early five-point lead and the bonus points from that victory proved critical as the Gophers upset the Scarlet Knights, 17-16, at the Sports Pavilion.
“It really was a great team effort. We talked about it before the match even started and said ‘This is a great dual team [and] on paper their picked to win a majority of the matches,’ but we believed we were capable of winning all 10 [matches],” said head assistant coach Brandon Eggum. “To win matches like this, you need someone to step up and pull a big win. We had a handful of guys step up and get wins.”
The tight score reflected a dual that was close throughout. The two teams split 10 matches, but Pfarr’s tech fall to kick off the dual was the only bonus point win until the afternoon’s final match. The next eight contests all ended in decisions.
Rutgers eroded Minnesota’s lead and hopped in front by winning three straight matches on the heels of that opening bout, starting with an upset for No. 16 Billy Smith over No. 7 Michael Kroells at 285 pounds. Neither wrestler earned a takedown in the match and it headed to overtime tied at one. Smith escaped Kroells after Kroells had failed to do the same in the first half of the tiebreakers, giving the Rutgers heavyweight a 2-1 win. A last-second takedown that required video confirmation gave Sean McCabe a 7-6 win over Skyler Petry at 125 pounds, and No. 18 Anthony Giraldo knocked off Sam Brancale, 3-1, in their 133-pound contest.
The Gophers closed to within one point at the halftime intermission thanks to a strong showing from No. 10 Tommy Thorn. After a scoreless first period with No. 4 Anthony Ashnault, Thorn rode out the entire second period and added a four-point tilt to take command of the match. A late escape from Ashnault spared him a major-decision loss as Thorn finished off a dominant 8-1 upset. Ashnault is now the highest-ranked wrestler that Thorn, a redshirt freshman, has defeated in his Gopher career.
Coming out of halftime, the Gophers picked up back-to-back wins, first from No. 9 Jake Short, who handled Tyson Dippery in a 6-1 decision at 149 pounds, then from Brandon Kingsley, who knocked off John Van Brill, 4-2. Those victories re-established the five-point lead Minnesota took after the night’s first match.
A whacky seven minutes at 165 pounds brought Rutgers to within two points in the team score, as No. 10 Anthony Perrotti came back in the third period to knock off Brandon Krone, 8-6. Krone led at the end of both the first and second periods, helped by three penalty points on Perrotti (stalling, cautions and illegal hold), but Perrotti proved too much with a late takedown to win.
Nick Wanzek’s victory over Phil Bakuckas at 174 pounds positioned the Gophers to win the dual with just one match remaining. The match was tight throughout – Wanzek led by one after both the first and second periods – but takedowns for Wanzek in the final 30 seconds of each period helped him to an 8-4 victory and once again put the Gophers in front by five points.
The night ended with Nicholas Gravina winning an 11-3 major decision over Chris Pfarr, but the four points from the win were too little for Rutgers with no matches left on Sunday’s card.
Sunday’s win brings the Gophers back to .500 on the season, both overall (6-6) and in Big Ten competition (2-2). The victory provides Minnesota with its first win over a top-10 team this season (had been 0-3 previously) and its first since last January when the Gophers knocked off then-No. 6 Penn State in State College by the exact same score, 17-16.
Minnesota returns to action a week from today when the Gophers host Purdue at the Sports Pavilion. That match is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (Central) start and will be available live on BTN Plus.
#21 Minnesota 17, #8 Rutgers 16
197 #4 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) tech fall Anthony Messner (Rutgers) 23-8, 6:38
Hwt #16 Billy Smith (Rutgers) dec. #7 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) 2-1 tb2
125 Sean McCabe (Rutgers) dec. Skyler Petry (Minnesota) 7-6
133 #18 Anthony Giraldo (Rutgers) dec. Sam Brancale (Minnesota) 3-1
141 #10 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) dec. #4 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) 8-1
149 #9 Jake Short (Minnesota) dec. Tyson Dippery (Rutgers) 6-1
157 Brandon Kingsley (Minnesota) dec. John Van Brill (Rutgers) 4-2
165 #10 Anthony Perrotti (Rutgers) dec. Brandon Krone (Minnesota) 8-6
174 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) dec. Phil Bakuckas (Rutgers) 8-4
184 Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers) maj. dec. Chris Pfarr (Minnesota) 11-3