#13 Gophers Fall in Season Debut at #5 Nebraska 22-14
Despite a spectacular debut from true freshman Andrew Sparks and a dominating performance from Gable Steveson, the No. 13 Gopher wrestling team dropped its season opener at No. 5 Nebraska, 22-14. Minnesota returned to the mat for the first time since the 2020 Big Ten Championships, a span of 306 days.
Making his first appearance in the Maroon and Gold, Sparks upset tenth-ranked Peyton Robb at 165 pounds. The 2020 California state champion trailed Robb, 5-2, before a last-second takedown in the second period narrowed the deficit to one. Sparks opened the third with an escape and quick takedown and held off a late Husker attack to claim a 7-6 decision. After a Nebraska victory at 125 pounds to start the dual, Minnesota’s Boo Dryden tied the match with an impressive 9-2 decision against 15th-ranked Alex Thomsen at 133 pounds. A mid-year junior college transfer last season, the senior took control of the match with a takedown and four-point near fall midway through the first period.
After Cornhusker wins at 141 and 149 pounds, sixth-ranked Brayton Lee and Sparks pulled the Gophers even at 9-9 apiece with four matches remaining. An All-American as a freshman last season, Lee kicked off his sophomore season with a 10-5 decision at 157 pounds.
Following Sparks’ upset at 165, Nebraska rebounded with three straight wins, including a pin and major decision, to put the dual out of reach before Steveson took to the mat.
Ranked No. 1 in the country, Steveson began his quest for a 2021 national title with a 23-8 technical fall against Christian Lance. The defending Big Ten Champion racked up 10 takedowns as he earned five team points. With the win, he improved to 51-2 in his collegiate career for a program-record 96.2 win percentage.
Tonight’s dual also featured six additional matches to provide more competitive opportunities during the shortened regular season. The results did not impact the team score.
The Golden Gophers claimed five of the six matches highlighted by the successful debuts of Cael Carlson and Isaiah Salazar. A redshirt freshman from Willmar, Minn., Carlson earned a 17-2 technical fall at 157 pounds. A four-time Colorado state champion, true freshman Isaiah Salazar claimed a 16-3 major decision at 184 pounds.
The Golden Gophers return to the road next Saturday for a tri-meet against Maryland and Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. Minnesota will host top-ranked Iowa in its home opener on Friday, Jan. 22.
#5 Nebraska 22, #13 Minnesota 14
125: #18 Liam Cronin (NEB) dec. #19 Patrick McKee (UM), 8-1
133: Boo Dryden (UM) dec. #15 Alex Thomsen (NEB), 9-2
141: #7 Chad Red (NEB) dec. Marcos Polanco (UM), 3-1
149: Brock Hardy (NEB) dec. #12 Michael Blockhus (UM), 9-2
157: #6 Brayton Lee (UM) dec. Caleb Licking (NEB), 10-5
165: Andrew Sparks (UM) dec. #10 Peyton Robb (NEB), 7-6
174: #4 Mikey Labriola (NEB) pinned Jake Allar (UM), 6:17
184: Nathan Haas (NEB) dec. #20 Owen Webster (UM), 5-2
197: #2 Eric Schultz (NEB) maj. dec. Garrett Joles (UM), 14-3
HWT: #1 Gable Steveson (UM) tech. fall Christian Lance (NEB)
Additional Results (do not affect team scores)
133 – Jake Gliva (UM) dec. Tucker Sjomeling (NEB), 3-1
149 – Jakob Bergeland (UM) dec. Jevon Parrish (NEB), 5-2
157 – Cael Carlson (UM) tech. fall Kevon Davenport (NEB), 17-2, 5:42
184 – Isaiah Salazar UM maj. dec. vs Colton Wolfe (NEB), 16-3
197 – Dylan Anderson (UM) dec. Silas Allred (NEB), 8-4
285 – Cale Davidson (NEB) pinned Keaton Kluever (UM), 1:35