MINNEAPOLIS — After dominating the competition last week at the season-opening Bison Open, Minnesota wrestling hits the road for its first dual meets of the season.
Thursday, the Gophers travel to Bucknell to take on the Bison at 6 p.m., while Saturday sees the team face Morgan State at 12:30 p.m. and host George Mason at 2 p.m. All three dual meets will be streamed on ESPN+ with live results Thursday on FloArena.com and TrackWrestling.com on Saturday.
It’ll be the first-ever meeting for Minnesota against both Bucknell and George Mason, while the Gophers met the Bears of Morgan State once in 1994, winning 35-12 at the Virginia Duals.
Gophers not traveling to the dual meets will take part in the Daktronics Open Sunday in Brookings, S.D. At the event last year, then-graduate senior Michial Foy won the 184-pound title, while current sixth-year senior Jake Gliva was a finalist at 133 pounds and redshirt sophomore Gabe Nagel claimed third place at 197.
Minnesota opened the 2023-24 season last weekend at the Bison Open in Fargo, N.D., winning seven of the 10 titles. Highlighted by returning All-American Michael Blockhus at 157 pounds, the Gophers saw Tyler Wells (133), Blaine Brenner (165), Sam Skillings (174), Max McEnelly (184), Garrett Joles (197) and Bennett Tabor (285) all earn titles in the first action of the season.
The Golden Gophers moved up one spot in the latest NWCA Coaches Preseason Poll from 15th to 14th.
Eight Gopher wrestlers are ranked in at least two of the major polls, with Blockhus and Patrick McKee leading the way by appearing in all four: WIN, InterMat, Flo and OpenMat. McKee is slated 3rd by WIN, 7th by InterMat and OpenMat and 10th by Flo, while Blockhus is ranked 5th by WIN and 6th by the other publications. Full rankings can be found on Page 4 of the notes.
Minnesota is coming off of a 2022-23 campaign that saw it finish with a 12-3 dual record, including a 5-3 record in Big Ten action. The Golden Gophers placed sixth as a team at the Big Ten Championships and then finished 15th at the NCAA Championships with a pair of All-Americans.
Five starters return for the 2023-24 season, including Blockhus, who was an All-American a year ago. Other returning national qualifiers include sixth-year seniors Jake Gliva, Joles and McKee, as well as Salazar and senior Andrew Sparks.
In addition, the team brings back six wrestlers who started at least one dual meet last year.
A seven-person freshman class fills out the Minnesota roster. Max McEnelly was ranked No. 15 on MatScouts’ 2023 Big Board, while Gavin Nelson was No. 20 and Ethan Riddle came in ranked 145th.