Gophers kick off weekend with win against Wildcats
An upset of a former national champion followed by a pin that took just 30 seconds set up No. 17 Minnesota to pick up its first road victory of the season, 22-20, over Northwestern on Friday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The win puts Minnesota over .500 again this season (8-7, 4-3) and extends the program’s longest active winning streak over a Big Ten opponent to 14.
In the night’s most-anticipated match – the only ranked-versus-ranked bout on Friday’s card – No. 16 Jake Short pulled off a thrilling comeback at 149 pounds to knock off No. 4 Jason Tsirtsis, the 2014 NCAA champ. Tsirtsis led the match 3-0 after the second period, but Short earned a pair of takedowns in the match’s final 90 seconds, including a match-clinching finish in the waning seconds of the final period that came with a pair of back points to complete the 7-4 upset. It was Short’s fourth win against a ranked opponent this season, tied for second-most on the team, and his first win in three tries against Tsirtsis.
“Like a lot of our matches, there were a lot of ups and downs,” said head coach J Robinson. “Tonight, Short’s match was a big motivator. He found a way to win and that’s what we keep preaching. You have to focus on those positive things and keep the other guys going in the right direction.”
Immediately follow Short’s win, 157-pounder Brandon Kingsley locked in a cradle against Anthony Petrone in the opening seconds of their match, taking Petrone to his back and pinning his shoulder blades to the mat in just 30 seconds. The quick finish was a stark contrast to the previous match’s last-second heroics, but equally impactful on the night’s final score. The fall was Kingsley’s fifth this season. All five pins have come in the first 100 seconds of matches, with four of them taking 48 seconds or fewer. Friday’s was his second-fastest finish, four seconds behind his pin of Elliott Raiford (Appalachian State) at the Southern Scuffle.
The wins from Short and Kingsley came at a critical time for Minnesota, which began the dual by dropping the first two matches and falling into an 8-0 hole. Northwestern took a 5-4 decision at 125 pounds when Garrison White added the riding time point over Steve Polakowski, then added a five points when No. 20 Dominick Malone defeated Ben Morgan by technical fall, 16-1.
No. 7 Tommy Thorn narrowly missed a major decision at 141 pounds after a late reversal by Jameson Oster, but his 10-3 decision got the Gophers on the board and set the stage for Short and Kingsley to score the next nine points in the dual and catapult the Gophers into the lead, 12-8, at halftime.
Following the break, the teams traded the lead four times in the night’s final five matches. That began when Northwestern scored a fall in the second period at 165 pounds to recapture the lead.
With the Gophers trailing by one, Nick Wanzek put together a shutout performance against Mitch Sliga, scoring both of the match’s takedowns to earn a 6-0 decision and put the Gophers back on top, 15-14.
Another fall for Northwestern, this coming in the first period at 184, gave the Wildcats a five-point lead with two matches remaining, matches that featured a pair of Gophers with two of the three best Big Ten records on the roster – No. 3 Brett Pfarr and No. 9 Michael Kroells.
Pfarr pulled the Gophers to within two points with a 9-4 decision over Jacob Berkowitz. The win pushed Pfarr’s team-high win total to 28 and maintained his perfect record in both duals (15-0) and in the Big Ten (7-0).
With the score 20-18, the winner of the heavyweight bout between Kroells and Conan Jennings would win the dual for his team. As he has often this season, Kroells controlled the match early and racked up takedowns late, adding three in the third period to blow open his match and finish off an 11-2 major decision.
The Gophers return to action later this weekend when they wrestle a Super Bowl Sunday matinee against the Wisconsin Badgers at 12 p.m. in Madison, Wis. Sunday’s contest will be streamed live on BTN Plus, with mat-side updates available throughout on Gopher Wrestling Twitter.
Minnesota 22, Northwestern 20
125: Garrison White (NU) dec Steve Polakowski (Minn), 5-4 / Minnesota 0 – Northwestern 3
133: No. 20 Dominick Malone (NU) tech fall Ben Morgan (Minn), 16-1 / Minnesota 0 – Northwestern 8
141: No. 7 Tommy Thorn (Minn) dec Jameson Oster (NU), 10-3 / Minnesota 3 – Northwestern 8
149: No. 16 Jake Short (Minn) dec No. 4 Jason Tsirtsis (NU), 7-4 / Minnesota 6 – Northwestern 8
157: Brandon Kingsley (Minn) fall (0:30) Anthony Petrone (NU) / Minnesota 12 – Northwestern 8
165: Luke Norland (NU) fall (4:13) Brad Dolezal (Minn) / Minnesota 12 – Northwestern 14
174: Nick Wanzek (Minn) dec Mitch Sliga (NU), 6-0 / Minnesota 15 – Northwestern 14
184: Regis Durbin (NU) fall (1:44) Chris Pfarr (Minn) / Minnesota 15 – Northwestern 20
197: No. 3 Brett Pfarr (Minn) dec Jacob Berkowitz (NU), 9-4 / Minnesota 18 – Northwestern 20
285: No. 9 Michael Kroells (Minn) maj dec Conan Jennings (NU), 11-2 / Minnesota 22 – Northwestern 20