The Gophers test their skills in a pair of Big Ten road duals for the first time this season when they travel to face No.17 Illinois on Friday and then Northwestern on Sunday. The No.7 Gophers will look to bounce back from a 24-10 loss to No.4 Iowa the prior weekend.
Matching-up with Illinois
The Gophers first road dual since they traveled to Fresno, California, will be against the Illini in their home Huff Hall. No.17 Illinois boasts six ranked wrestlers, resulting in four matchups between ranked wrestlers. All bouts between 125 and 157 will be between ranked wrestlers excluding 149-pounds.
This will be the Gophers first dual against Illinois since head coach Brandon Eggum took over three seasons ago.
125-pound Sean Russell already defeated Illinois’ Travis Piotrowski by decision in the quarterfinals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
Taking on Northwestern
For their Sunday afternoon dual against the Wildcats, the Gophers will head to Evanston, Illinois. On deck will be three ranked matchups at 125-pounds, 157-pounds, and heavyweight. To start the Gophers off 125-pound Sean Russell will look to bounce back from only his third loss of the season against No.1 Sebastian Rivera who recently won the Midlands Championships with a victory over 2018 national champion Spencer Lee.
At 157-pound No.3 Ryan Deakin and No.7 Steve Bleise will face off. Both fell this past weekend to top-five opponents. At heavyweight Gable Steveson will protect his No.1 rankings against No.19 Conan Jennings.
The Gophers are looking for revenge against the Wildcats after losing 20-18 last season on a Deakin pin in the final bout of the day.
125: No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (15-0)
133: Colin Valdiviez (11-8)
141: Alec McKenna (6-5)
149: Shayne Oster (8-6) OR Yahya Thomas (11-6)
157: No. 3 Ryan Deakin (16-2)
165: Tyler Morland (1-2)
174: Johnny Sebastian (4-4)
184: Brandon Devine (0-11)
197: Zack Chakonis (2-11)
HWT: No.19 Conan Jennings (10-6)
Last Time Out
The Gophers kicked off their Big Ten schedule with a victory over No.20 Rutgers before falling to No.4 Iowa the week after. Against the Scarlet Knights the Gophers won six individual match-ups en route a 22-15 dual. Four of those six victories came from bonus points.
The Gophers fell to Iowa 24-10 in this latest installment of the border rivalry. Minnesota dropped seven out of ten bouts with victories coming from 174-pound Devin Skatzka, heavyweight Gable Steveson, and 141-pound Mitch McKee.
Prior to the Big Ten season the Gophers went 4-0 at the South Beach Duals with wins over three ranked teams to go alongside a 51-0 destruction of Kent State. In December the Gophers also defeated Fresno State for the second consecutive season.
In late November the Gophers traveled to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational where they had four placers. Heavyweight Gable Steveson was crowned champion, 125-pound Sean Russell took home third place, 133-pound Ethan Lizak finished fourth, and 174-pound Devin Skatzka placed seventh.
Minnesota’s own No.1 Gable Steveson has continued to roll in his first collegiate season after finishing his prep career with an astonishing 210-3. Steveson’s record sits at 20-0 heading into the weekend, good for the 26th longest streak in Gopher history. With one more victory he will tie head coach Brandon Eggum, volunteer coach Zach Sanders, and Gopher legend Brock Lesnar among others.
Steveson has brought excitement to the wrestling community with his scintillating moves and entertaining style. He will aim to be the first freshman Gopher freshman to the win the national championship since Dustin Schlatter in 2006. Schlatter also holds the second longest winning streak in Gophers history at 65, with heavyweight Cole Konrad atop the list with 73.
The Gophers will also be sending three wrestlers to the Worthington Open at Morning Side College in Worthington, Minnesota. Among those traveling will be 133-pound Jake Gliva, 174-pound Baille O’Reilly, and 184-pound Caden Steffen.
Action kicks off on Saturday January 19 at 9:00 a.m.
The Gophers continue their Big Ten schedule with a home dual against No.2 Iowa in the latest installment of the bitter border rivalry. The Gophers then travel to Illinois the weekend of Jan. 18 to face off against the University of Illinois and Northwestern over the weekend. Minnesota will take a trip to Wisconsin on January 25 before returning home to dual Purdue on February 3.