Minnesota knocks off No. 10 Michigan
A run of five consecutive victories late in Sunday afternoon’s dual put the Gophers (3-1, 2-0) in a position to defeat No. 10 Michigan (3-1, 0-1), but it was bonus points in three straight that added four critical points for Minnesota in its 22-18 win at Cliff Keen Arena. By the end of that five-match spree, Minnesota had clinched the victory with one match still remaining.
“A win like this, the way we won, builds confidence,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “We told the guys, the difference today was that we out-hustled our opponents. Our body language, our energy, those things were important and they can be contagious. We showed a lot of energy today. Carrying forward, the big thing we take from this is that energy and that confidence.”
Following a tech fall for Michigan and No. 2 Logan Massa at 165, the Gophers found themselves trailing 12-3 with one match left before halftime. That result of that bout, between No. 16 Nick Wanzek and No. 9 Myles Amine, gave Minnesota a spark toward building momentum. Wanzek played strong defense early as Amine got in on several shots through the first two period, but Wanzek kept the score to 1-0 through two before twice using Amine’s aggressiveness against him to score a pair of go-behind takedowns in the third to win, 6-4. Building on Wanzek’s success, Minnesota came out of the locker room and dominated the next three matches.
“That really got the momentum going, which is so important in duals. We haven’t always had those in previous matches. Our guys did a really good job of catching that momentum and carrying it through,” said Eggum.
Bobby Steveson pulled the Gophers to within two, 12-10, with a dominate showing against Ernest Battaglia, a 14-4 major decision in which the redshirt freshman finished six takedowns without surrendering any to his opponent.
Up next, No. 2 Brett Pfarr came out at 197 pounds and did what he so often has both this season and last. Pfarr, a redshirt senior, one-upped his 184-pound counterpart by racking up seven takedowns against Minnesota native Jackson Striggow in a 16-5 major decision. It was Pfarr’s seventh straight match in which he scored bonus points for his team, and his fourth consecutive major decision. His win also put the Gophers ahead for the first time on Sunday, 14-12.
The run continued at heavyweight, where No. 6 Michael Kroells overwhelmed Dan Perry. A pair of four-point near-falls late in the second period ended the match, as Kroells picked up the 17-0 tech fall and five team points. Those points put Minnesota into strong position with only two matches remaining.
While the heavy lifting was done at the heaviest weight classes, it was Steve Polakowski, in his first start of the season, who sealed the win for Minnesota with his decision over Austin Assad at 125 pounds. Polakowski picked up the match’s first takedown in the opening period to set the tone, and battled hard with Assad until scoring a takedown off a go-behind counter with 30 seconds remaining to break a 4-4 tie and take the match, 6-4.
“That’s huge win against a good wrestler. [Polakowski] did a good job of staying focused. He had to battle through a number of positions but that takedown at the end and then the ride out, that showed real guts,” said Eggum.
The Gophers early deficit came following a decision loss at 141 pounds for Gannon Volk and a major decision loss at 149 for James Berg.
While the Gophers’ charge to victory began in the fifth match, it was a win in the matinee’s third match that made it possible. Though ranked 12th in the nation, 157-pounder Jake Short was the lower-ranked competitor in his bout with No. 8 Brian Murphy. After fighting off a couple early shots from Murphy, Short never appeared to be in much danger, getting to his own offense for a second-period takedown and then scoring a reversal to start the third, cruising to a 5-1 win. The win scored the first points of the day for the Gophers.
“Going into the dual, you know you’re favored at 84, 97 and heavyweight, or that was kind of our thoughts at least. We knew there were some big matches that play a role and one of them was 57,” said Eggum. “Jake comes out and he’s the Jake Short that you know is capable of wrestling great. He really lit it up there and got a big win. That was a big step for us to get things going.”
Massa’s tech fall followed Short’s match, serving as the last Michigan win on the afternoon until the final bout, where No. 8 Stevan Micic pinned No. 17 Mitch McKee to set the final margin, 22-18.
With a pair of Big Ten wins under their belts, the Gophers will take a break from competition for the next few weeks for first semester finals and the holidays. Minnesota returns to action on New Year’s Day, when they will join some of the nation’s best teams in Chattanooga, Tenn., for the 2017 Southern Scuffle.
#10 Minnesota 22, #9 Michigan 18
141: Sal Profaci (Mich) dec Gannon Volk (Minn), 11-5 | Minn 0 — Mich 3
149: Zac Hall (Mich) maj dec James Berg (Minn), 14-6 | Minn 0 — Mich 7
157: No. 12 Jake Short (Minn) dec No. 8 Brian Murphy (Mich), 5-1 | Minn 3 — Mich 7
165: No. 2 Logan Massa (Mich) tech fall Brandon Kingsley (Minn), 17-2 | Minn 3 — Mich 12
174: No. 16 Nick Wanzek (Minn) dec No. 9 Myles Amine (Mich), 6-4 | Minn 6 — Mich 12
184: Bobby Steveson (Minn) maj dec Ernest Battaglia (Mich), 14-4 | Minn 10 — Mich 12
197: No. 2 Brett Pfarr (Minn) maj dec Jackson Striggow (Mich), 16-5 | Minn 14 — Mich 12
285: No. 6 Michael Kroells (Minn) tech fall Dan Perry (Mich), 17-0 | Minn 19 — Mich 12
125: Steve Polakowski (Minn) dec Austin Assad (Mich), 6-4 | Minn 22 — Mich 12
133: No. 8 Stevan Micic (Mich) fall (4:56) No. 17 Mitch McKee (Minn) | Minn 22 — Mich 18