After spending last weekend in Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational, the Gophers return to Big Ten country to get their conference slate started on Friday night against Michigan State. Sparty is a familiar face for Minnesota when it comes to open up the Big Ten season. Michigan State has been the opening conference opponent for the Gophers four of the past six seasons during which the two have appeared on each other’s schedule. Minnesota hopes to continue its run of success in those matches (4-0) on Friday.
When, Where and How
Friday’s match starts at 6 p.m. Central at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Mich. 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).
So Far This Season
Michigan State (2-3) is already well into its 21-match dual schedule for this season, having spent last weekend at the Nebraska Quad. The Spartans were swept in that event, dropping matches to Nebraska, Princeton, and Drexel. Prior to their trip to Lincoln, the Spartans had picked up a pair of wins on a swing through Pennsylvania, where they defeated Bloomsburg and Lock Haven.
The Green and White have competed in a pair of early-season tournaments, visiting nearby Ypsilanti for the Eastern Michigan Open and hosting the Michigan State Open. No. 12 Javier Gasca won the 141-pound title in both of those events, while freshman Drew Hughes captured the 165-pound championship in the latter event.
While Sparty was in Nebraska, the Gophers were in Nevada, where they finished fourth in the Cliff Keen Invitational. No. 12 Jake Short and No. 2 Brett Pfarr won the 149- and 197-pound titles, respectively, as five Gophers placed.
In dual action, Minnesota is 1-1 this season, with a comeback victory over No. 20 South Dakota State and a loss to No. 1 Oklahoma State already in the books. Friday’s dual will be the first road contest for Minnesota this year.
At 165, a pair of pinners will both work to get the other on the mat when Brandon Kingsley takes on Drew Hughes. The two currently have eight falls between them this season (two for Kingsley; six for Hughes). Last season, Kingsley pinned six opponents, with five of those falls occurring in 100 seconds or fewer.
Last Time Around
Minnesota and Michigan State last wrestled early in the 2014-15 season, a 36-3 victory for the Gophers at the Sports Pavilion. After dropping the evening’s opening match at 125 pounds, Minnesota won nine straight to close out the dual. Each team has just three starters from that match still on the roster, and half of those competitors have bumped up a weight class in the two years since that meeting. No rematches from the last meeting are expected on Friday.
Rank and File
It’s expected that six ranked wrestlers will compete on Friday night – all at different weights. Five of these wrestlers will be in Maroon singlets: No. 17 Mitch McKee (133), No. 12 Jake Short (157), No. 16 Nick Wanzek (174), No. 2 Brett Pfarr (197) and No. 6 Michael Kroells (285). The lone ranked Spartan is No. 12 Javier Gasca (141).
The Gophers hold a slim edge in their all-time series with the Spartans (34-31) but have dominated the head-to-head meetings recently. Minnesota has won 19 of the last 20, including eight straight, over State, last dropping a dual to MSU in January 2005. Only one of the eight matches during the Gophers’ current winning streak has been within eight points, and only two have been within 24.
There’s No Place Like Home
While the Gophers have logged plenty of travel miles already this year, with tournaments in New York and Las Vegas, Friday will be their first road dual of the season. Based on last year’s results, the road schedule appears less daunting than the home half for Minnesota. The Gophers’ seven home opponents had a winning percentage of .779 (81-23) last year, while their road foes posted a .527 winning percentage (38-34).
Minnesota has won 10 of its past 11 Big Ten openers going back to the 2005-06 season. During that run, Michigan State has been on the other side of the mat for four of those 10 victories.