Meet the Gopher Freshmen: Andrew Sparks

Most people would not have picked Andrew Sparks to win in his state title match last season, but in Andrew’s mind, it was all a part of the plan. The Costa Mesa, California native capped off his astronomical rise in the high school wrestling scene by defeating top 5-nationally ranked Cael Valencia in the California state finals via a decisive 7-1 decision (Watch on Youtube).

In turn, the once unknown grappler, who didn’t start wrestling until 8th grade, quickly became one of the most highly touted recruits in the late stages of the Class of 2020 recruiting cycle, and after signing with the University of Minnesota in April, Sparks now has the opportunity to compete for an NCAA Division I wrestling program.

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Meet the Gopher Freshmen: Brady Spaeth

The “Meet the Freshmen” series continues, this time with Cadott, Wisconsin product Brady Spaeth. Spaeth compiled a 174-9 record in his high school career, becoming a four-time WIAA state placewinner, a three-time finalist, and a two-time champion. Spaeth’s other accomplishments include being a Wisconsin national team member in 2018 and 2019, a USA Wrestling Folkstyle national finalist, and a Northern Plains champion in both international styles.

Read about Brady Spaeth and his aspirations to become the next great Golden Gopher wrestler as he prepares to call Minneapolis home for the next four years.

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DI Council extends eligibility for winter sport student-athletes

Members also provide additional flexibility in championships selection, membership requirements

Winter sport student-athletes who compete during 2020-21 in Division I will receive both an additional season of competition and an additional year in which to complete it, the Division I Council decided. The same flexibility was provided to student-athletes after the spring season was canceled in 2020 and the fall season was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council met by videoconference Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict. Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”

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NCAA Division I Council reportedly votes to grant additional year of eligibility to winter-sports athletes

Spencer Lee’s pathway to become a four-time NCAA champion could be cleared again, and the drive for five might be alive for Yianni Diakomihalis and Mekhi Lewis.

The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Tuesday in favor of granting an additional year of eligibility to winter sports athletes, college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman reported. Goodman tweeted that the decision could be brought back for reconsideration and won’t be official until the close of Wednesday’s meetings.

In August, the NCAA granted blanket waivers to athletes participating in fall sports, enabling them to compete this season without exhausting a year of eligibility. The NCAA also ruled then that schools would be allowed a temporary expansion of scholarship limits to accommodate seniors who opt to return for an additional season. Continue reading at

Smith, Ortiz and Russell Lead Gophers at US Senior Nationals

Current and former Gophers led a Minnesota contingent at the US Senior Nationals this past weekend at Xtream Arena & GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville, Iowa. Pat Smith and Alec Ortiz finished second and third in Greco-Roman, respectively, while Sean Russell placed fourth in freestyle.

Smith and Ortiz advanced to a semifinal matchup at 77kg with Smith moving on to the finals with a 4-1 victory. Smith fell in the championship bout against No. 3 Kendrick Sanders, while Ortiz rallied for a third-place finish.

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Meet the Gopher Freshmen: Sam Skillings

As we continue our “Meet the Freshmen” series, Golden Gopher wrestling welcomes another newcomer to the squad, Sam Skillings. Skillings, a Menomonie, Wisconsin native, is two-time state-placewinner at 182 pounds. He finished runner-up as a junior in 2019, before coming back for 3rd place as senior, after recovering from a broken leg. Skillings has also showcased his talents in Freestyle and Greco-Roman, earning medals in multiple prestigious events such as Cadet Nationals and Northern Plains.

Read about his thoughts on representing the Maroon & Gold, and how one former Gopher Wrestling great helped lead him to where he is today.

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Meet the Gopher Freshmen: Tim Stapleton

Tim Stapleton, a Waconia, Minnesota native, reached the top of the podium at the MSHSL State Tournament, winning his state championship at 152 pounds in Class AA as a junior. Stapleton also was a 2018 state runner-up, and compiled a 159-29 record in his high school career.

Now, read about the incoming freshman’s aspirations as a Golden Gopher, as well as one interesting song choice that he must listen to before all of his matches.

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