Gophers Set to Host Maryland, Northwestern this Weekend

MINNEAPOLIS — No. 10 Minnesota (6-2, 1-2 B1G) returns to Maturi Pavilion this weekend for a pair of Big Ten duals. Friday night at 7 p.m., the Gophers host Maryland (3-5, 1-4), while the team welcomes Northwestern (0-4, 0-3) to Maturi Pavilion Sunday at 1 p.m. Friday’s dual will stream on B1G+, while Sunday’s will air on Big Ten Network. Live results from both duals can be found on TrackWrestling.com.

Despite last weekend’s win at No. 13 Rutgers, the Golden Gophers dropped one spot to No. 10 in the latest NWCA Coaches Poll. Minnesota is also 13th in the WIN Tournament Power Index and 16th in the Intermat TPI.

Ten Gopher wrestlers are ranked in at least two of the major polls (Intermat, WIN, Flo, OpenMat, Coaches), while seven appear in at least three, and five are in at least four of the polls. Patrick McKee (125 pounds), Vance VomBaur (141), and Isaiah Salazar (184) lead the way by appearing in all five. Salazar appears in the Top 10 in all five polls, ranking fifth by OpenMat, sixth by WIN, InterMat, and Flo, and 10th by the NCAA Coaches. Michael Blockhus (149) was not included in the initial Coaches Rankings but appears in the top five of the other four polls, including No. 2 in WIN’s rankings.

PROMOTIONS
Friday’s dual features an intermission recognition for the 2013-14 team that won the Big Ten regular-season title and finished as national runner-ups behind seven All-Americans. In addition, the first 200 fans will receive a 16oz Gopher Tough glass. Fans will receive a voucher for one glass, and they can trade in the voucher for a glass when leaving the dual. There will also be post-match autographs, and there will be Chick-fil-A for the first 50 students in attendance

Sunday’s dual will be Senior Day, where seven Gophers will be honored in a post-dual ceremony: Michael Blockhus, Jake Gliva, Garrett Joles, Ben Lunn, Patrick McKee, Rowan Morgan, and Sebas Swiggum. Sunday is also Alumni Day, where all alumni in attendance will be recognized at intermission.

FACING MARYLAND
Minnesota is 6-1 all-time against Maryland, though the one loss occurred in 1966. The Gophers have won all four meetings between the schools since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten. Minnesota’s .857 all-time win percentage is the third-best against a league opponent, behind only Rutgers (1.000, 6-0) and Indiana (.898, 48-5-1).

The Golden Gophers have won six straight against the Terrapins, which is tied for their second-longest active win streak against a Big Ten program. They also won six in a row against Rutgers. Only a 13-match win streak over Michigan State is longer for Minnesota.

In the last two wins, Minnesota has outscored Maryland 93-0, posting a 45-0 shutout in 2019 and a 48-0 win in 2021.

The Gophers have won both series meetings in Minneapolis, winning in 2016 and the most recent such meeting in 2019.

Minnesota and Maryland have one common opponent this season in Morgan State. The Golden Gophers shut out the Bears, 52-0, at a neutral site on Nov. 18, while the Terrapins won at Morgan State, 35-6, on Dec. 10.

LAST MEETING WITH THE TERPS
Minnesota’s last win over Maryland came as part of its first conference tri-meet since 1996 as the Gophers defeated Maryland and host Michigan State on Jan. 16, 2021. Minnesota routed the Terrapins with a 48-0 win and defeated the Spartans 28-6 in the finale.

The victory over Maryland was Minnesota’s biggest margin of victory against a conference foe since a 51-0 victory against Purdue on Feb. 10, 1979. The Gophers amassed three major decisions and four pins en route to the win.

Among current team members, Patrick McKee had a 19-6 major decision at 125 pounds over King Sandoval, Andrew Sparks won by a major decision, 14-3, at 165 against Jonathan Spadafora, and Garrett Joles posted a 9-6 decision versus Jaron Smith at 197. Michael Blockhus won his match at 157 by injury default.

RANKED MARYLAND MATCHUPS
Based on the probable starters, there are scheduled to be four ranked matchups on Friday, according to Intermat’s latest rankings, with the possibility of five in total.

At 141 pounds, No. 21 Vance VomBaur is set to face 17th-ranked Kal Miller. VomBaur has two ranked wins on the season, tied for second on the team. VomBaur is 0-3 in the Big Ten this season, but all three losses have come to wrestlers ranked 20th or higher.

No. 13 Drew Roberts takes on No. 14 Ethen Miller at 149 pounds. Roberts is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season, tying for second on the team in ranked wins. His ranked losses came against then-No. 12 Caleb Rathjen of Iowa (now 11th) and top-ranked Ridge Lovett of Nebraska.

Winner of five straight matches, No. 5 Michael Blockhus looks to continue his winning ways at 157 pounds in a matchup with No. 33 Michael North. The two have faced once before, in 2021, with Blockhus winning via injury default. This season, Blockhus is 3-0 against ranked opponents, taking down wrestlers ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 11th at the time of the match.

The final scheduled ranked matchup comes at 197 pounds, with No. 24 Garrett Joles facing No. 5 Jaxon Smith. Joles is 13-6 on the season, with all six losses coming at the hands of ranked opponents. He’s coming off a 4-1 SV1 win over then-No. 9 John Poznanski Saturday at Rutgers. Smith captured an 8-5 decision at the 2022 Edinboro Open in the only prior matchup between the two.

A ranked matchup might also take place at 133 pounds between No. 26 Tyler Wells and No. 21 Braxton Brown. Wells is 2-0 against ranked opponents this season with an 11-5 decision over then-No. 17 Kurt Phipps of Bucknell on Nov. 16, as well as a 5-2 SV1 win over then-No. 8 Dylan Shawver Saturday at Rutgers. A winner of five straight matches, Wells is 3-0 to start his Big Ten dual career.

FACING NORTHWESTERN
Minnesota is 36-11-1 all-time against Northwestern. The .760 all-time win percentage is Minnesota’s third-best against any opponent it has faced at least 40 times. The only better percentages come against Indiana (.898, 48-5-1) and Purdue (.811, 42-9-2).

Northwestern prevailed when the teams met last season, but the Gophers won the three matchups prior to that and have won 17 of the last 19 dating to the 1996-97 season.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota is 22-3 all-time against Northwestern, including 13 straight wins dating to January of 1990. The 13-match win streak is the Gophers’ longest active home win streak against one program. The next closest is a seven-match streak versus Michigan State.

Entering the weekend, Minnesota and Northwestern have one common opponent this season in Nebraska. Both the Gophers and Wildcats lost to the Cornhuskers as Minnesota fell at home 19-14 on Jan. 19, while Northwestern dropped a 39-3 home decision last Friday.

LAST MEETING WITH THE WILDCATS
When the teams met a year ago in Evanston, it was Northwestern who handed the Gophers their first dual loss of the season in a 18-11 result.

The story of the dual was the swing matches, as Northwestern won five of the six ranked matchups. All five wins came in the final five bouts, helping the Wildcats overcome a halftime deficit.

Northwestern struck first as Andrew Sparks fell 5-3 at 165 pounds, while the Gophers responded with a major decision at 174. Isaiah Salazar followed with a major decision of his own at 184, as he defeated Evan Bates, 15-1, collecting nearly five minutes of riding time in the contest.

A win at 197 pounds would be the last time the Gophers would find the scoreboard however, as Northwestern rallied to take each of the remaining bouts by decision to help secure the dual victory. Among the losses was a 1-1 TB1 loss by Michael Blockhus at 149 to Yahya Thomas.

RANKED NORTHWESTERN MATCHUPS
Based on the probable starters, one ranked matchup, according to Intermat’s latest rankings, is scheduled for Sunday, with the possibility of three in total.

At 165 pounds, No. 28 Blaine Brenner faces off with No. 21 Maxx Mayfield. Brenner is 14-7 on the season, with five of those seven losses coming to ranked opponents. He has one ranked victory on the season, topping then-No. 19 Tanner Cook of South Dakota State on Nov. 26.

Ranked matchups might also take place at 157 pounds between No. 5 Michael Blockhus and No. 18 Trevor Chumbley, as well as 184 pounds, where No. 6 Isaiah Salazar could face No. 33 Troy Fisher.

As previously noted, Blockhus enters the weekend 3-0 against ranked opponents this season, taking down wrestlers ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 11th at the time of the match.

Salazar, who did not compete at Rutgers on Jan. 27, is coming off his first match against a ranked opponent, defeating then-No. 3 Lenny Pinto of Nebraska, 4-1, on Jan. 19.

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