Gophers Rout Cyclones in Regular Season Finale
Minnesota scores 40 points in a dual for the first time in more than three years in a blowout victory over regional rival Iowa State on Sunday in Ames
Minnesota piled up points in Ames on Sunday, winning the dual’s first five matches and producing seven bonus-point wins to run up a season-high scoring total in a 40-7 win over Iowa State. The 33-point win is an emphatic finish to a 7-5 (5-4) regular season that included an undefeated run on the road (5-0). The undefeated road record is the first for Minnesota since 2012-13.
“The guys were really aggressive all day and that’s exactly what we want to see from them,” said Head Coach Brandon Eggum. “We did a lot of things well today. A lot of positives, like scoring bonus points when we had those opportunities. Momentum is always such a big thing and this can help us create some momentum heading into Big Tens.”
The key to Sunday’s one-sided performance from the Gophers may have come in the day’s opening bout, their only victory not to produce bonus points. At 174 pounds, Chris Pfarr controlled his contest against returning All-American and tenth-ranked Lelund Weatherspoon, not allowing a single takedown while scoring four of his own in a 10-4 decision.
”Chris Pfarr’s win at 174 was key today. He upset a top-ranked wrestler at his weight class and our guys were pretty fired up after that. That was big. It got us on a roll,” said Eggum.
Minnesota’s momentum only grew with another unexpected win at 184 pounds. With regular starter Bobby Steveson nursing a minor injury, the Gophers turned to Brandon Krone for his first dual match of the season. Krone made the most of the opportunity, earning a 10-2 major decision to further build the Gophers’ confidence.
Following those early wins, the three Gophers who have produced the most bonus-point wins for the Gophers so far this season delivered again in the next three matches.
That began at 197 pounds, where one of the only things missing from No. 2 Brett Pfarr’s resume this season was a pin. Despite six major decisions and seven tech falls, Pfarr had not yet pinned an opponent. His match Sunday didn’t initially appear it would be his first, as Marcus Harrington scored an early takedown and popped ahead, 2-0. Pfarr responded aggressively, escaping quickly and scoring 11 points in fewer than two minutes before settling in for the pin.
Eighth-ranked heavyweight Michael Kroells followed with three, four-point tilts in the final 30 seconds of the first period against Quean Smith. Early takedowns staked Kroells a 6-2 advantage and the series of tilts before the end of the opening frame gave Kroells an 18-2 tech fall.
Turning back to the lightest weight class, seventh-ranked 125-pounder Ethan Lizak started slowly against NCAA qualifier Kyle Larson, picking up a takedown two minutes into the match to go up, 2-0. In the second, Lizak again picked up a takedown late, but this time sunk in a half-nelson and pinned Larson just before the end of the period.
Sunday was the third time in the past five duals that the trio of Pfarr, Kroells and Lizak have each produced a tech fall or pin.
The day’s most-anticipated match opened the second half of the dual and, in what has become a hallmark of No. 17 Mitch McKee’s matches, there were more points put on the board between he and No. 10 Earl Hall than any other match Sunday. McKee picked up an early two on Hall, but a reversal and near-fall put Hall on top. McKee repeatedly challenged Hall, closing to within two points and later one point, but was unable to catch the two-time All-American, dropping the match, 16-9.
Any chance that Hall’s victory could spark a second-half run for the Cyclones was quickly snuffed out by No. 11 Tommy Thorn in his 141-pound match against John Meeks. Thorn picked up a takedown fewer than 30 seconds into the match and, by the 1:54 mark, had picked up his first pin of the season.
With three matches remaining, Thorn’s pin gave Minnesota a new season-high with 30 team points.
After Ben Brancale fell at 149 pounds in his first career dual appearance for the Gophers and No. 8 Jake Short capped off a 9-1 major decision at 157 thanks to an early hip toss that became a six-point move, No. 18 Nick Wanzek capped the dual for Minnesota with yet another pin, this one coming almost immediately off the second-period whistle. Wanzek sank in a cement mixer on Logan Breitenbach and earned the pin 18 seconds in the middle frame.
Wanzek’s pin was the fourth of the day for Minnesota, something the Gophers had not accomplished since a 2012 match against Itasca Community College as part of the Bison Quad.
Minnesota’s run of seven bonus-point wins were the most for the program since a 2014 dual against Indiana, a match where the Gophers earned two falls and five major decisions. Against that same Indiana program earlier this year, Minnesota picked up four straight bonus wins, something they did again on Sunday. Prior to this season, the Maroon and Gold hadn’t had such a run since 2015 against Maryland.
Those superior individual results led to a noteworthy team score as well. The Gophers put up 40 or more in a dual for the first time since a 2013 contest against Wyoming and won a dual by more than 30 points for the first time since a 2014 contest against Michigan State.
Today’s dual was the last for Minnesota this season. The team will have next weekend off to prepare for the Big Ten Championships, which will be held in Bloomington, Ind., on March 4 and 5.
Minnesota 40 Iowa State 7
174 Christopher Pfarr (Minnesota) over Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) (Dec 10-4)
184 Brandon Krone (Minnesota) over Carson Powell (Iowa State) (MD 10-2)
197 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) over Marcus Harrington (Iowa State) (Fall 2:36)
285 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) over Quean Smith (Iowa State) (TF 18-2 3:00)
125 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) over Kyle Larson (Iowa State) (Fall 4:44)
133 Earl Hall (Iowa State) over Mitch McKee (Minnesota) (Dec 16-9)
141 Thomas Thorn (Minnesota) over John Meeks (Iowa State) (Fall 1:56)
149 Gabe Moreno (Iowa State) over Benjamin Brancale (Minnesota) (MD 8-0)
157 Jake Short (Minnesota) over Colston DiBlasi (Iowa State) (MD 9-1)
165 Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) over Logan Breitenbach (Iowa State) (Fall 3:20)