The Gophers head south for the South Beach Duals just before the New Year to take part in four duals over the course of the two-day competition. Minnesota will wrestle Utah Valley, Lehigh, North Carolina, and Kent State over the weekend.
The Gophers first take on Lehigh on Saturday morning before dualing North Carolina in the afternoon. On the second day they will wrestle Kent State and finish off the event with Utah Valley.
The South Beach Duals are an event hosted at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center where several Division I schools come and wrestle two duals on each day. Last year the Gophers fell 25-16 to North Carolina and 22-19 to Cornell on the first day. The Gophers bounced back on day two with double-digit victories over both Columbia and Binghamton.
The South Beach Duals also host youth and high school events throughout the weekend surrounding the main NCAA wrestling matches.
Schedule of Events (All times Central)
Saturday, December 29th:
• Round 1 10:00 am – Lehigh
• Round 2 12:00 pm – North Carolina
Sunday, December 30th:
• Round 3 10:00 am – Kent State
• Round 4 12:00 pm – Utah Valley
Last Time Out
In their last dual on December 8 the Gophers went west to California to take on the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Gophers had little trouble as they earned a 31-6 dual victory with seven weight classes won and a forfeit at heavyweight. The Gophers only lost two weight classes by a combined five points.
Before the trip to Fresno State the Gophers took home 6th place in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Tournament and had one champion, Gable Steveson, and three other placers. Sean Russell earned third, Ethan Lizak placed fourth, and Devin Skatzka took seventh place. At the tournament Steveson defeated both North Carolina’s Cory Daniel and Utah Valley’s Tate Orndorff which may result in rematches at the South Beach Duals.
The Gophers also handily defeated South Dakota State 35-6 before they flew out to Las Vegas.
The Gophers boast ranked wrestlers in seven of the ten total weight classes. Their highest ranked wrestler across all outlets is heavyweight Gable Steveson, an undefeated true freshman. The Gophers have one of the best group of lightweight wrestlers in the country with No. 5 Sean Russell, No. 8 Ethan Lizak, and No.5 Mitch McKee kicking off the action.
149-pound Tommy Thorn is back into the rankings after a short absence and 174-pound Devin Skatzka is steadily moving up the rankings up to No. 15 in his first year wearing the Gophers singlet. 157-pound Devin Skatzka is also still ranked highly despite missing the past month with a broken hand.
Climbing the ladder
Several Gophers are nearing career milestones that could arrive before the end of the year. Nearing the century mark is No. 8 Ethan Lizak. He currently sits less than 20 victories behind head coach Brandon Eggum and assistant coach Dustin Schlatter.
Tommy Thorn now has 80 wins after defeating Khristian Olivas in Fresno. Elsewhere 165-pound Carson Brolsma now has 33 wins with five coming since the South Dakota State Dual. Meanwhile Gable Steveson is undefeated to start his career.
Trip to the Midlands
Some of the Gophers will be traveling to the Ken Kraft Midlands Championship in Chicago. The Midlands is a notorious competition in the wrestling world so tough competition will be found in every bracket.
Among those traveling to Chicago are 125-pound Patrick McKee, 149-pounders Jakob Bergeland, Brayton Lee, Kasper McIntosh, and 165-pound Jake Allar. 174-pound Bailee O’Reilly and 197-pounders Garrett Joles and Bobby Steveson will also be making the trip.
Leadership at the top
The Gophers boast a strong lineup full of senior leaders, particularly true at lighter weights. Both 125-pound Sean Russell and 133-pound Ethan Lizak in their final years of college. 141-pound Mitch McKee is a junior, but 149-pound Tommy Thorn is yet another redshirt senior near the top of the lineup.
True freshman heavyweight Gable Steveson is the only underclassmen to be a starter in multiple duals.
The Gophers’ Big Ten slate begins just after the New Year with a home dual against Rutgers on January 6. Just a week later Minnesota takes on border rival Iowa in a match-up of two of the top teams in not only the conference, but the country.
The Gophers then hit the road or three consecutive duals against Illinois, Northwestern, and Wisconsin before returning home in early February.