MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 8 University of Minnesota wrestling program (7-0) is set to kick off the Big Ten dual season, as they will travel to Evanston, Illinois this weekend to take on the seventh-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (1-0).
The Gophers will enter conference competition looking to continue their best start to a season since the 2014-15 campaign, as they swept the non-conference schedule with signature wins over ranked opponents over South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma State and Cal Poly.
This weekend’s contest with the Wildcats will take place on Saturday, January 7 inside Welsh-Ryan Arena at 2:00 p.m. CST, with the dual being streamed live on B1G+. Fans can also follow along for live match-by-match updates on Twitter at @GopherWrestling.
Tale of the Tape – The Wildcats
Northwestern is led by seventh-year head coach Matt Storniolo, who comes into the weekend with a .500 career mark at 39-39. The Wildcats house an experienced lineup up and down the board, being led by four wrestlers ranked inside the top-10 including 125-pounder Michael DeAugustino and heavyweight Lucas Davison.
Northwestern comes into this weekend’s matchup rather inexperienced in dual competition this season, winning their only dual of the season over unranked Virginia by a score of 20-13 in November. The Wildcats are coming off the heels of a Midlands team title last weekend, the host school’s first time winning the event in school history.
The Series with Northwestern
Minnesota leads the all-time series against Northwestern with a record of 36-10-1 in a series that dates back to the 1928-29 season. The Golden Gophers have won 17 of the last 18 meetings between the two schools, including each of the previous three matchups. The most recent meeting came last season, where the Gophers dismantled Northwestern, 31-9, inside Maturi Pavilion.
First Meeting: W, 19-7 (1928-29 season)
Last Meeting: W, 31-9 (1/9/2022)
Longest Win Streak: W14 (12/6/1996-2/5/2016)
Longest Losing Streak: L3 (1/6/1968-1/18/1969)
Current Streak: W3 (1/20/2019-present)
The “U” hosted Northwestern last season for their conference home opener on January 9, 2022 and defeated the Wildcats by a score of 31-9 on the back of four bonus-point victories throughout the contest. The Gophers rattled off seven wins throughout the dual, including each of the first six contests to secure the victory. The win was highlighted by Cael Carlson and Michial Foy, who each earned falls on the day.
This Saturday’s matinee features a stacked slate between two Big Ten foes, with 18 total wrestlers ranked in the InterMat polls with the potential for eight ranked matchups in the dual.
The feature bout of the dual comes at 125 pounds between two All-Americans, as fourth-ranked Patrick McKee will take on No. 3 Michael DeAugustino in a top-5 lightweight showdown. This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the 125-pound hammers, with the two splitting the first four contests.
Aaron Nagao looks for perhaps the biggest win of his young career this weekend, as he’s slated to wrestle two-time NCAA All-American Chris Cannon. Nagao holds a 12-2 record in his first season as a starter, and is coming off a third-place finish at the Southern Scuffle.
Gopher All-American Jake Bergeland will also face a tough test at 141 pounds, as he will toe the line against No. 13 Frankie Tal-Shahar. Bergeland faced off against the Wildcat three times last season, winning all three bouts by narrow decisions.
At 149 pounds, Michael Blockhus looks to break through against a top-10 opponent in Yahya Thomas. The two opponents have traded wins in each of their previous three matchups, with Thomas earning a 6-1 decision in last season’s dual to put the series at 2-1.
Brayton Lee returns to action at 157 pounds, as he’s set for a top-15 showdown with Northwestern’s Trevor Chumbley. Lee enters the dual in unfamiliar territory, as comes into the contest as an underdog for the first time in a dual since the 2020-21 season, where Lee faced off against top-ranked Ryan Deakin of Northwestern.
Bailee O’Reilly will look to improve upon his performance in last season’s Northwestern dual as he will get a second crack at Northwestern’s Troy Fisher. In last season’s meeting, it was O’Reilly who prevailed via a 9-5 decision.
A potential swing match comes at 197 pounds, as No. 30 Michial Foy will look to get a ranked victory over the 27th-ranked Andrew Davison in a contest that could clinch the dual for either program.
Following this weekend’s conference opener, the Gophers will return to action for a pair of B1G showdowns with Nebraska and Michigan State. The Gophers will first travel to Lincoln on Friday, January 13 to compete against the Cornhuskers at 8:00 p.m. CST, before returning home to host their first home conference dual of the year against Michigan State at 7:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, January 15. Both duals will be nationally televised live on the Big Ten Network.