Minnesota (3-2, 2-1) continues its January homestand with Wisconsin (3-1, 1-1) visiting the Sports Pavilion on Sunday in a match that’s critical for both teams in the Big Ten race, with both facing difficult stretches of conference contests in the coming weeks. The Border Battle dual will be the 95th time the two programs have met since their initial meeting in 1926.
Sunday’s matinee starts at 1 p.m. Central at the Sports Pavilion. Tickets are available at MyGopherSports.com.
Fans who can’t be there in person will be able to stream the action live on BTN Plus, follow live stats on TrackWrestling.com or keep tabs on the latest updates by following Gopher Wrestling on Twitter (@GopherWrestling).
Sunday’s match is the second of three straight home duals for the Gophers to open the new calendar year, a run that began last Friday with a loss to Penn State. That meet was the team’s return to dual action following a successful trip to the Southern Scuffle. In its best showing in the event since 2014, Minnesota produced one individual champion (Ethan Lizak, 125), three finalists, and seven placewinners, all of which powered a fourth-place finish. In another prestigious in-season tournament, the Cliff Keen Invitational in early December, the Gophers also took fourth with, two champions and five placers. Prior to last weekend’s Big Ten home opener, Minnesota had split a pair of non-conference duals in November and opened its conference slate with a weekend sweep in Michigan.
The Badgers will visit the Twin Cities on the way back to Madison following a Friday night showdown with Nebraska in Lincoln. Wisconsin is also one dual into the stretch run following a 23-15 home loss to Ohio State last weekend. Prior to that, Big Red took seventh at the Midlands over the holiday break after outpacing Minnesota and surprising many with a second-place showing at the Cliff Keen a few weeks earlier. Prior to Midlands, Wisconsin built a 3-0 dual meet record with comfortable non-conference wins at Duke and against Northern Iowa in Madison, as well as squeaking out a 20-19 victory in its Big Ten opener at Indiana.
Several matches merit consideration for this spot, with up to five bouts pitting ranked wrestlers against each other, but the biggest match may involve the biggest men on the mat Sunday, when No. 8 Michael Kroells challenges No. 2 Connor Medbery. It will be their third meeting already this year, with Medbery owning a 2-0 advantage to this point.
Last Time Around
Last February in Madison, Minnesota and Wisconsin split 10 matches in their Super Bowl Sunday matinee, but a tech fall from Brett Pfarr at 197 pounds provided the day’s most-critical bonus points and help Minnesota take the dual, 17-16. After an OT loss at 149 to open the dual, a comeback win for Brandon Kingsley at 157 and decisions at 174, 285 and 141 put points on the board for Minnesota. The win for Tommy Thorn at 141, a 6-0 decision, sealed the Gophers’ victory in a tightly contested dual, one in which Minnesota erased an early 7-3 deficit only to watch Wisconsin rally from its own four-point hole (14-10) to take a 16-14 lead into the final match.
Rank and File
While there are several “or” weights on Sunday’s bout card, if both teams wrestle their full lineup of ranked competitors, 13 ranked wrestlers will take the mat on Sunday, seven for Minnesota and six for Wisconsin. That collection of ranked competitors will create as many as five ranked-versus-ranked matches, four bouts between top-15 opponents, and one potential top-10 showdown (at heavyweight).
In one of Minnesota’s most-wrestled rivalries, the Gophers hold a 61-32-1 advantage over the Badgers in their 94 head-to-head meetings. The Maroon & Gold have taken the last four duals, and seven of the last eight. Wisconsin’s only victory in the series since 2008 came in the 2010-11 season.
There No Place Like Home
Sunday night will be the Gophers’ fourth of seven home matches this season. Minnesota is 1-2 at the Pav so far this season, with a win over No. 20 South Dakota State and defeats against No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Penn State. After Wisconsin, Minnesota’s three remaining home opponents are all top-five teams: No. 2 Iowa, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Nebraska.
While the Gophers have strong win totals against a variety of Big Ten opponents, notably Nebraska, Purdue and Indiana, Minnesota has more wins against Wisconsin (61) than any other opponent in program history.