The University of Minnesota wrestling team will open the Big Ten season for the second straight season against the Michigan State Spartans, this season at Maturi Pavilion. Both teams are coming off showings at the South Beach Duals, with this dual serving as both teams Big Ten dual opener.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
125: No. 5 Ethan Lizak (17-1) vs Rayvon Foley (18-3)
133: No. 8 Mitch McKee (9-3) vs Nathan Ellis (3-8) -OR- Matt Santos (4-4)
141: No. 10 Tommy Thorn vs No. 18 Javier Gasca (10-3)
149: Hunter Marko (5-9) -OR- Ben Brancale (7-5) vs Jwan Britton (9-6) -OR- Austin Eicher (5-2)
157: No. 13 Jake Short (8-4) vs Jake Tucker (14-8)
165: No. 9 Nick Wanzek (15-2) vs Austin Hiles (9-9)
174: Chris Pfarr (10-5) vs Logan Ritchie (8-11) -OR- Austen Malczewski (6-9)
184: Owen Webster (7-3) -OR- Dylan Anderson (20-6) vs Shwan Shadaia (7-9) -OR- Danny Kruse (8-5)
197: Bobby Steveson (3-7) vs Nick May (5-11)
285: Rylee Streifel (6-6) vs Christian Rebottaro (5-8) -OR- Matt Lloyd (6-7)
LAST TIME OUT – SOUTH BEACH DUALS
The University of Minnesota wrestled their way to a 2-2 record at the South Beach Duals to end 2017. Minnesota picked up victories over Columbia and Binghamton while dropping close duals to No. 12 Cornell and No. 24 North Carolina. Ethan Lizak, Nick Wanzek, Dylan Anderson and Chris Pfarr all had perfect weekends on the mat, combining to go 15-0 overall.
“The effort from the guys today was just great. It really started with our bottom few weights, the way they came out really set the tone. The momentum was really going in the right direction and we saw guys looking for bonus points and really allowed us to dominate today.”
MATCHES TO WATCH
The Gophers will have a trio of ranked-wrestlers to potentially worry about come Sunday. Michigan State will present three top-20 wrestlers at 133, 141 and 174. No. 8 Mitch McKee could see junior Austin Eicher, who McKee defeated in his freshman season by decision, 9-3. Tommy Thorn will wrestle senior Javier Gasca, who he has not faced in his career. At 174, Chris Pfarr could see his second-ranked wrestler in his past four matches in sophomore Drew Hughes, who wrestled and won at 165 last season against the Gophers.
THE B1G STAGE
Minnesota is one of just five teams in the Big Ten that has not wrestled a Big Ten opponent this season. Michigan State will also be making their Big Ten debut this season. Last season, the Gophers finished 5-4 in conference duals, including a 20-17 win over Michigan State on the road. Minnesota will wrestle nine straight Big Ten duals before taking on Rider to end the dual season.
It isn’t just a nickname, Ethan Lizak practically has lived on his opponents backs this season. The junior has outscored his opponents 160-25 this season, including 77-2 during his 8-match winning streak, which have all been bonus point wins. Lizak has done most of his work on top this season but has picked up momentum with two of his last four matches ending with a pin.
Mitch McKee pinned two of his opponents to end the South Beach Duals, and Tommy Thorn picked up one himself, putting them in a tie for most pins on the Gophers roster this season. Both with eight, McKee has three pins in his past five matches while Thorn has pinned four of his past six opponents. McKee now has the active career lead with 14 pins, which starts to put him on pin watch, being just nine pins away from entering the top-25 in the Gophers record books.
The Simley graduate has done nothing but score on his opponents since his last loss at Cliff Keen. Wanzek has scored 71-points in his last five matches for a hefty average of 14.2 points per match. He has only allowed 19-points during that span and has majored four of his last five opponents, with the only other match being a tech fall victory.
THE SENIOR TRIO
Unless a dual begins at 165 or 174, opposing teams for the remainder of the season will have to face three experienced wrestlers at some point during a dual. This season the three starting seniors of Short, Wanzek, and Pfarr have combined to go 33-11, which includes 12 major decisions.
ANDERSON FIRST TO REACH 20-WINS
Redshirt freshman Dylan Anderson was the first Minnesota wrestler to reach 20-wins this season after picking up three wins at the South Beach Duals, including a win during the Columbia dual. Anderson is also tied for second on the team with five pins this season.