Gophers come home to open dual season

Saturday night will be the first time in exactly 300 days the wrestling mats will be rolled out in the Sports Pavilion for a home dual as No. 20 South Dakota State comes to Minneapolis for the second time in as many years to challenge No. 10 Minnesota.

Saturday’s match is set to begin at 8 p.m. Central at the Sports Pavilion. Fans will be able to stream the action live on BTN Plus or keep tabs on the latest updates by following Gopher Wrestling on Twitter (@GopherWrestling).

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So Far This Season

The Gophers and the Jackrabbits have already seen each other once this season when both were at Frost Arena on the South Dakota State campus for the Daktronics Open. The hosts won two individual titles in that event (Seth Gross, 133; Nate Rotert, 197), while the visiting Gophers won one (Ethan Lizak, 125).

SDSU came into the tournament with a dual win under its belt, having dominated Iowa State, 27-9, in Ames two days earlier. The Jackrabbits haven’t competed since the Dak two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Minnesota spent last weekend in central New York competing in the Journeymen/Asics Collegiate Classic. Four Gophers won titles at that event: Mitch McKee (133A), Sam Brancale (133B), Chris Pfarr (184D) and Brett Pfarr (197A).

Marquee Matches

Two matches on Saturday night’s card will feature closely ranked wrestlers with match history against one another. At 174 pounds, No. 15 David Kocer will take on No. 17 Nick Wanzek. Wanzek edged Kocer, 6-5, at the Gopher Duals last season. Then, at 197, No. 2 Brett Pfarr will wrestle a top-five tilt with No. 5 Nate Rotert. Pfarr went 2-0 against Rotert last year, winning their matches by a combined 27-0 margin.

Breeding Familiarity

There are several potential matches on Saturday that were previewed at this year’s Daktronics Open. Starting at 125, Ben Gillette knocked off Skyler Petry, 7-3, in a quarterfinal match. In the 133-pound final, Gross defeated McKee, 6-2, in McKee’s first-ever collegiate match against a ranked opponent. Gannon Volk majored Isaac Andre in the second round at 141 pounds, 15-2. Finally, Carson Brolsma saw both potential 157-pound starters for the Jackrabbits – Colin Holler and Logan Peterson – in Brookings, dropping a quarterfinal match to Holler, 6-2, and then defeating Peterson in the fifth-place contest, 6-1.

Rank and File

Seven ranked wrestlers are expected to compete in Saturday’s dual – four on the home side and three among the visitors. Two previously mentioned matches will pit ranked wrestlers against each other: No. 15 Kocer vs. No. 17 Wanzek and No. 5 Rotert vs. No. 2 Pfarr. The other ranked Gophers are No. 5 Michael Kroells at heavyweight and No. 9 Jake Short at 157. On the South Dakota State roster, the remaining ranked wrestler is No. 7 Gross at 133.

Series History

Historically, Minnesota has gotten the better of South Dakota State more often than not, leading the all-time series, 22-4. The Gophers have reeled off five consecutive wins in the series, including a 20-13 win last November in the Gopher Duals.

There’s No Place Like Home

This Saturday’s dual against the Jackrabbits is the first of seven home contests for the Gophers this year. That home slate will be one of the most challenging in the nation. Six of the seven visiting teams (including SDSU) are currently ranked in the top-20 by InterMat, and five schools are currently ranked in the top six. Heading into this season, Minnesota has not lost more than one home dual in a season since 2010-11.

Parting Shot

The Gopher football team will be wrapping up a home game against Northwestern at approximately 6 p.m. on Saturday. Fans coming to the dual are advised to plan ahead and arrive early in case there are any delays on campus streets from football fans leaving the area following the game. Usual parking options may be limited as well, with men’s hockey also starting at 8 p.m. Those seeking single-day, cash parking on Saturday should explore: Oak St. Ramp, Washington Ave. Ramp and University Ave. Ramp.

Stay Connected

GopherSports.com is your home for all Gopher Wrestling news throughout the 2016-17. Whether you’re looking for a match preview, tournament recaps, features on the wrestlers you’re seeing on the mat each week or team stats, we will have it all for you right here. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates.