Gopher Wrestling today announced its 2016-17 schedule, a slate that features stops at traditional in-season tournaments and a rugged dual schedule that includes home dates with five of the top-eight finishing teams from last year’s NCAA Championships.
“It’s a great schedule, no doubt about it. It will be a lot of fun, but it will also be a tough schedule,” said acting head coach Brandon Eggum. “We have some early tournaments and a chance to get our young guys a lot of matches, which is great.
“Our home duals will be really exciting for our wrestlers and for our fans. We have a lot of top teams coming into the Sports Pavilion this year,” added Eggum.
The dual lineup will provide plenty of challenges for a young Minnesota roster. After opening its season at the Daktronics Open on Nov. 6, Minnesota will begin its run through the dual season with a trip to the east coast. After decade-long absence from the event, the Gophers return to Troy, N.Y., to wrestle in the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals for the second straight season. Minnesota’s opponents at the event are to be determined.
Minnesota will return to Minneapolis for two more November non-conference duals when the Maroon and Gold host regional rival South Dakota State and continue their annual series with Oklahoma State.
Last season, Minnesota improved to 21-5 all-time against SDSU with a 20-13 win over the Jackrabbits at the Gopher Duals at Williams Arena. This year will be the first time since 1979 that South Dakota State has appeared on Minnesota’s schedule in consecutive years (the team’s wrestled each other in three straight seasons from 1977-79).
The Gophers have wrestled OK State more than any other non-conference opponent over the past 25 years, with this season’s match marking the 29th between the two nationally elite programs in the past quarter-century. Prior to last year’s defeat, 20-17 in Stillwater, Minnesota had won three straight over the Cowboys.
The Gophers will break from the dual schedule at the start of December to once again compete at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. Minnesota finished third in the event last season after winning the tournament in 2014.
Just before winter finals and the holiday break, Minnesota will sneak in a pair of road duals to open the conference season. For the first time since 2013-14, the Gophers will embark on the Michigan road swing, first taking on Michigan State in East Lansing and then making the hour-long drive down I-96 to Ann Arbor challenge the Michigan Wolverines. Minnesota will look to extend its winning streak against the Spartans to nine straight duals, while hoping to push its run against Big Blue to five wins in its last six tries.
For the second straight season, Minnesota will wrap up its in-season tournament schedule on the first two days of the New Year, heading to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the 2017 Southern Scuffle. The Gophers finished sixth in last year’s event, with four wrestlers producing podium finishes.
The stretch run of the Gophers’ dual slate, particularly the home portion, will provide plenty of challenges for a young Minnesota lineup. During the final six weeks of the season, the Gophers will host (in order): Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State. Save for the Badgers, every one of those teams placed in the top-eight at last year’s NCAAs. Against this run of conference foes, Minnesota’s longest unbeaten streak comes against the Nittany Lions. The Gophers last lost to Penn State back in 1998 and have been unbeaten in the series for 13-straight matches.
The Gophers only conference road dual in 2017 will be in the Hoosier State, where Minnesota will visit Bloomington to take on Indiana before heading back that direction to West Lafayette the following week to wrestle with Purdue in late January. Minnesota will bring an eight-match winning streak into that contest with the Boilermakers.
Finally, in its last contest before heading to the conference and national tournaments, Minnesota will make the short trip to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State. The Gophers posted their largest victory of the season last year against Iowa State at Williams Arena, a 30-10 win to close out the regular season.
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