Regular Season Wraps at Home with Border Battle

MINNEAPOLIS — No. 12 Minnesota (10-2, 5-2 B1G) closes out the regular season Friday at home in a Border Battle with Wisconsin (9-4, 3-3) at 8 p.m. Big Ten Network will have television coverage of the dual, while live results will be available on TrackWrestling.com.

Despite five straight wins, including last weekend over Illinois and Purdue, the Golden Gophers dropped one spot to No. 12 in the latest NWCA Coaches Poll. Minnesota is also 14th in the WIN Tournament Power Index and tied with Wisconsin for 16th in the Intermat TPI.

Ten Gopher wrestlers are ranked in at least three of the major polls (Intermat, WIN, Flo, OpenMat, Coaches), while five are in at least four of the polls. Michael Blockhus (149 pounds), Patrick McKee (125), and Isaiah Salazar (184) lead the way by appearing in all five. Blockhus and Salazar are both in the top 5 of all five polls, with Blockhus ranking second according to WIN, third by the Coaches and OpenMat, and fourth by InterMat and Flo. Salazar is ranked fourth by WIN and OpenMat and fifth by the Coaches, Intermat, and Flo. Full rankings for Minnesota can be found on Page 7 of the notes.

Minnesota started 5-0 in dual competition for the second straight season. Prior to that, it had not happened since the Gophers opened the 2014-15 campaign with ten straight dual wins. When the Gophers moved to Big Ten action, they started with losses to then-No. 3 Iowa and then-No. 6 Nebraska but have since responded with five straight conference wins over then-No. 13 Rutgers, Maryland, Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue.

During the current five-match win streak, Minnesota has outscored opponents 153-36 and hasn’t allowed more than 12 points in any dual.

The Gophers shut out Northwestern, 39-0, on Feb. 4. It was the first shutout of a conference opponent since a 48-0 win against Maryland in 2021 and, coupled with a 52-0 win over Morgan State on Nov. 18, was the second shutout of the season for Minnesota. It’s just the second time in the last 22 years that Minnesota has posted two shutouts in the same season. The last time it happened came in 2018-19, and prior to that, it had not occurred since 2001-02.

PROMOTIONS
The first 500 fans in attendance Friday night get a Gophers Wrestling Fanny Pack, while free Chick-fil-A sandwiches will be given to the first 50 students.

FACING WISCONSIN
Minnesota is 64-36-1 all-time against Wisconsin, including wins in 10 of the last 11 meetings. The 64 wins are the most for Minnesota against any one program, with second place being 52 wins over Nebraska.

In addition, the 101 all-time meetings with the Badgers rank second in Gopher history behind only 108 meetings with Iowa.

In Minneapolis, the Gophers own a 45-18-1 advantage in the series. The total matches (64) and wins (45) are the most at home for Minnesota against any single program. The Golden Gophers have won six of the last seven at home in the series, though the Badgers prevailed, 21-15, last time they met at Maturi Pavilion in 2022.

Minnesota and Wisconsin have had five common opponents this year in Bucknell, Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Purdue. Both the Gophers and Badgers went 4-1 in those matchups, with each losing to the Cornhuskers. In the four wins, Minnesota outscored opponents 140-21, while the Badgers’ total was 98-67.

The Gophers have six Wisconsin natives on the roster: Blaine Brenner (165, Stanley, Stanley-Boyd HS), Garrett Joles (197, Boyceville, Boyceville HS), Rhett Koenig (141, Prairie Du Chien, Prairie Du Chein HS), Ethan Riddle (174, Germantown, Germantown HS), Sam Skillings (174, Menomonie, Menomonie HS) and Devin Wasley (174, Hammond, St. Croix Central HS).

Wisconsin has two Minnesotans on the team in 125-pounder Simon Kruse from St. Clair, Minn. (St. Clair/Mankato Loyola HS) and heavyweight Gannon Rosenfeld from North Mankato (Mankato West HS).

Watch | Trackwrestling

LAST MEETING WITH THE BADGERS
A back-and-forth contest last season in Madison went the way of the No. 9 Gophers, as they knocked off No. 19 Wisconsin by a score of 19-15.

With the teams splitting the ten bouts on the day, it was Minnesota’s ability to find bonus points that proved to be the deciding factor as the Maroon & Gold found a pair of bonus-point wins in the dual.

Kicking off the dual at 149 pounds, Michael Blockhus secured a third-period fall over Aidan Medora to put six on the scoreboard for Minnesota.

Wisconsin took the next two matches, including a 12-9 decision by Garrett Model over Drew Roberts at 157, to tie the dual before Bailee O’Reilly rolled to a methodical 14-4 major decision win over Josh Otto.

The Gophers continued to roll at 184 pounds, where Sam Skillings filled in for teammate Isaiah Salazar and defeated Wisconsin’s Tyler Dow by an 11-4 decision.

Wisconsin came out of the halftime break by rattling off three one-point victories to jump out front 15-13 and take their first lead of the dual. In the stretch, Garrett Joles lost at heavyweight, 3-2, to Trent Hillger, while Patrick McKee lost at 125 to Eric Barnett, 5-4.

After a Minnesota win at 133 pounds, Jake Bergeland defeated Joseph Zargo by a 1-0 decision to clinch the dual for Minnesota as a third-period escape proved to be the difference.

RANKED WISCONSIN MATCHUPS
Based on the probable starters and Intermat’s latest rankings, five ranked matches are possible on Friday night.

At 125 pounds, the 10th all-time meeting between No. 11 Patrick McKee and No. 3 Eric Barnett could take place. McKee owns a 5-4 edge in the series, which has alternated winners in each of the last six matches. Barnett has won three of the four meetings in the regular season, while McKee is 2-1 at the Big Ten Championships against Barnett and 2-0 at the NCAAs.

At 149 pounds, No. 16 Drew Roberts might face 19th-ranked Joseph Zargo. Roberts is 2-3 against ranked opponents this year with decisions over then-No. 33 Dylan Chappell of Bucknell in a dual in mid-November and then-No. 21 Caleb Tyus of SIUE at the Cougar Clash in early December. Roberts’ losses have been to those ranked 1, 12, and 14 at the time of the bouts.

No. 32 Blaine Brenner could take on No. 5 Dean Hamiti at 165 pounds. Brenner is 2-6 against ranked opponents this season, with his win coming over then-No. 19 Tanner Cook of South Dakota State on Nov. 26 and then-No. 33 Chris Moore of Illinois on Feb. 9. Brenner has won four of his last five matches overall.

At 174 pounds, No. 31 Andrew Sparks has the chance to face No. 12 Max Maylor. Sparks has only faced three ranked opponents this season, going 1-2. His win came last time out in an 11-1 major decision over Purdue’s then-No. 32 Brody Baumann. Both losses came to wrestlers ranked 13th or higher at the time of the match.

The final ranked matchup might come at 184 pounds between No. 5 Isaiah Salazar and No. 16 Shane Liegel. Salazar has won all three of his ranked matchups this season, taking down then-No. 3 Lenny Pinto of Nebraska, 4-1, on Jan. 19, then-No. 33 Troy Fisher of Northwestern, 8-3, on Feb. 4 and then-No. 31 Dylan Connell of Illinois, 6-0, on Feb. 9.

BLOCKHUS AT HIS BEST
Minnesota sixth-year senior Michael Blockhus has been nearly unbeatable this season after moving up a weight class to 157 pounds.

Currently ranked fourth in the country by Intermat, Blockhus is 14-1 on the season, 11-1 in duals, 7-0 in the Big Ten, and 6-0 against ranked opponents. His lone loss came to George Mason’s DJ McGee, who was unranked at the time on Nov. 18 but is now No. 25, according to Intermat.

Blockhus has three tech falls, two pins, and a pair of major decisions this season. He has won his last nine matches, including a pair of tech falls, a pin, and a major decision. Six of the nine matches have come against ranked opponents, ranging from 2nd to 33rd, and Blockhus has won them all.

A pair of top-three victories earned Blockhus Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors on Jan. 30. Ranked 11th at the time, Blockhus upset then-No. 2 Jared Franek of Iowa in a 5-4 decision on Monday, Jan. 15. Franek led 4-1 through two periods and was up 4-2 with 20 seconds to go when Blockhus took him down and got the win. That Friday against Nebraska, Blockhus, who had moved up to 10th in the Intermat rankings, added a victory over No. 3 Peyton Robb, 12-6. Blockhus was the first Gopher to be named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week since Michial Foy earned the honor on Dec. 1, 2022.

SENSATIONAL SALAZAR
Minnesota senior Isaiah Salazar has been one of the team’s most reliable performers this season, sporting a 17-1 record and going undefeated in duals (10-0), Big Ten action (6-0), and against ranked opponents (3-0) at 184 pounds.

Ranked 10th or better all season, Salazar has seven wins by tech fall and four by major decision. He started the year 6-0 before dropping an 11-5 decision to Missouri’s Colton Hawks at the Cougar Clash in early December. Salazar hasn’t lost since, winning his last 11 matches.

Six of the 11 wins during the streak have been by bonus points, with four tech falls and two majors. In addition, three have come over ranked opponents, including a 4-1 decision over then-No. 3 Lenny Pinto of Nebraska on Jan. 19. During the streak, Salazar has outscored opponents 123-12 and has not allowed more than three points in any match.

Check out Gopher Wrestling at gophersports.com and on Facebook, X (Twitter), and Instagram. Buy Gopher Tickets

View More College News