In its fourth home dual against a top-five opponent this season, No. 10 Minnesota fell to third-ranked Iowa, 27-11, on Sunday afternoon at the Sports Pavilion in front of a season-best crowd of 3,749. The loss sets the Gophers back to 6-4 (5-3) on the season with a pair of duals remaining before the conference and national tournaments in March.
“We knew coming in here that we needed to wrestle really well” to have a chance at the upset, said Head Coach Brandon Eggum. “We knew this was a tough team but we were a little disappointed in some spots. We have to get back to the drawing board and get ready for next week with Ohio State coming in here. It doesn’t get any easier.”
Both on the mat and in the stands, the day got off to a sleepy start with an earlier-than-usual 11 a.m. opening match. Iowa took control of the dual by winning the first five matches, but the Pavilion crowd came alive following the intermission when No. 2 Brett Pfarr raced out to a 10-0 lead over Mitch Bowman in the first period of their match at 197 pounds. Pfarr continued to rack up points on Bowman throughout the final two periods and used the riding time point to finish off a 19-4 tech fall.
The tech fall was the third straight for Pfarr, a career first for the redshirt senior. His seven tech falls this season are also a career high, surpassing the five he posted in 2013-14. For the second time this season, he has now won three or more consecutive matches with bonus point. He scored extra points for his team in nine straight bouts at one point earlier this year.
For the sixth time in 10 duals this season, a victory from Pfarr was immediately followed by a victory for fellow captain, No. 8 Michael Kroells. The heavyweight contest started a little bit slower than the previous match, with Kroells picking up the first two points on a reversal at the start of the second period. That 2-0 score held until the match’s closing seconds, when Kroells tilted Steve Holloway to score four points on the near-fall, stretching his win to a 7-0 decision. The win keeps Kroells tied with Pfarr for the team lead in wins this season, with 22.
“[Pfarr and Kroells] are veterans. They don’t get excited. They are very calm. They know what they need to do. Even though his match was close there for a while, Kroells wasn’t panicked. He enjoys it,” said Eggum, adding, “that’s part of it. You don’t get many opportunities to get out here and compete in this environment.”
Those wins came after a tough first half for the Gophers, one in which they were unable to take a match from Iowa. The dual began with Brandon Kingsley making his career-debut at 149 pounds in place of Carson Brolsma, who was sick earlier in the week. Kingsley’s assignment became even more challenging when he had to open the dual against two-time All-American Brandon Sorensen. A major decision in that match put Iowa ahead early, and major decisions at 157, 174 and 184 helped the Hawkeyes jump out to a 19-0 lead at the break.
After Pfarr and Kroells brought the Gophers back to within 11, one of the afternoon’s most-anticipated matches came up at 125 pounds. For all the volume Pfarr had coaxed out of the crowd earlier in the second half, No. 6 Ethan Lizak doubled that by scoring the opening takedown against top-ranked and undefeated Thomas Gilman, then scoring two and four points, respectively, on a pair of tilts later in the first period to lead 8-0. Gilman, showing the grit of a seasoned veteran, rallied in the third, scoring a series of takedowns on Lizak and closing to within 10-8 before catching Lizak’s arm and turning him to his back to score the fall at 5:58.
“Lizak’s is showing great progress at 125 by really dominating a great opponent, but that’s one we need to close the deal on. You have to give Gilman a lot of respect coming back there but we need to close that match,” said Eggum.
The team’s then split the night’s final two matches, with No. 15 Mitch McKee scoring a late takedown to fight off a major decision against No. 4 Cory Clark, 10-3, followed by No. 13 Tommy Thorn gutting out a tough victory over Topher Carton, 3-2. Thorn opened the scoring in his match with a first-period fireman’s carry, but the winning point would come on an escape for Thorn late in the third.
The Gophers have just one dual left on what has been the most challenging home schedule in the nation this season. That comes next Sunday, when Minnesota welcomes No. 4 Ohio State to the Sports Pavilion for a 1 p.m. dual. Sunday is also Senior Day, with the Gophers honoring at halftime a six-man senior class that includes: Sam Brancale, Jordan Bremer, Brandon Kingsley, Michael Kroells, Ben Morgan and Brett Pfarr. Tickets for that dual are currently available on MyGopherSports.com.
#3 Iowa 27 #10 Minnesota 11
149: No. 4 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) maj dec Brandon Kingsley (Minn), 13-2 | Minn 0 – Iowa 4
157: No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) maj dec No. 9 Jake Short (Minn), 13-5 | Minn 0 – Iowa 8
165: Joey Gunther (Iowa) dec No. 15 Nick Wanzek (Minn), 5-2 | Minn 0 – Iowa 11
174: No. 11 Alex Meyer (Iowa) maj dec Chris Pfarr (Minn), 9-1 | Minn 0 – Iowa 15
184: No. 5 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) maj dec Bobby Steveson (Minn), 10-2 | Minn 0 – Iowa 19
197: No. 2 Brett Pfarr (Minn) tech fall Mitch Bowman (Iowa), 19-4 | Minn 5 – Iowa 19
285: No. 8 Michael Kroells (Minn) dec Steven Holloway (Iowa), 7-0 | Minn 8 – Iowa 19
125: No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) fall (5:58) No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minn) | Minn 8 – Iowa 24*
133: No. 4 Cory Clark (Iowa) dec No. 15 Mitch McKee (Minn), 10-3 | Minn 8 – Iowa 27
141: No. 13 Tommy Thorn (Minn) dec Topher Carton (Iowa), 3-2 | Minn 11 – Iowa 27
*Iowa penalized one team point following the 125-pound match for bench conduct.