Gophers Open Conference Slate With Road Win
No. 18 Minnesota (2-1, 1-0) rallied in their Big Ten opener on Friday night, erasing a halftime deficit in East Lansing by winning four the last five matches, including the final three, to knock off Michigan State (2-4, 0-1), 20-17. The strength of Minnesota’s upper-weights was again on display at Jenison Field House, with wins in the four heaviest weight classes. That foursome – No. 16 Nick Wanzek, Bobby Steveson, No. 2 Brett Pfarr and No. 6 Michael Kroells – has gone undefeated in both of Minnesota’s dual victories this season.
After drawing weights, Friday’s match began where most duals end, at heavyweight. Kroells took the opportunity to stake the Gophers an early 3-0 lead in a decision over Jacob Cooper that required a good deal of patience from Kroells, as his opponent slowed the pace and fought to keep scoring low. While he accomplished that goal, it was Kroells who ultimately benefitted and picked up the 1-0 decision.
Resetting to the lower-weights, the two teams began trading victories, as Michigan State leveled the match at three thanks to a 9-3 decision from Logan Griffin over Skyler Petry. Minnesota answered at 133 pounds when No. 17 Mitch McKee, after earning his first career ranking following a strong showing at the Cliff Keen Invitational last weekend, picked up his first career dual win and his first career Big Ten win in a single effort. McKee raced out to a 6-0 lead over Austin Eicher and used that strong start to power a 9-3 victory.
As the Gophers had, the Spartans answered with a ranked wrestler of their own, No. 12 Javier Gasca. The 141-pounder picked up an 11-1 major decision over Gannon Volk to put Sparty ahead for the first time, 7-6. Teammate Nick Trimble followed with a major decision over James Berg, 12-4, at 149 pounds to give Michigan State an 11-6 halftime lead.
No. 12 Jake Short put a stop to the Spartans’ run following the intermission, picking up an early takedown and showcasing strong defense – two of Short’s hallmarks – in a 4-2 decision over Austin Thompson at 157 pounds.
The 165-pound bout seemed likely to end in a fall one way or another as both teams trotted out pinners, and it did. It was Drew Hughes getting the better of Brandon Kingsley during a second-period scrambling and scoring the fall at 4:51. The lightning-quick call from the official that Kingsley had been pinned drew complaints from the Minnesota corner, but the call stood, as did the six points for the Spartans, which extended their lead to 17-6.
The Gophers no longer had room for error. A loss in any of the three remaining matches would seal the dual for Michigan State. As they did in a comeback win over No. 20 South Dakota State earlier in the season, the upper-weights showed they could be counted on when it mattered most.
The push began at 174 pounds, where No. 16 Nick Wanzek gave up the match’s opening takedown but then scored 14 of the final 15 points in his bout with Logan Ritchie. Wanzek was relentless over the final two periods, adding takedowns and near-falls to earn a 14-3 major.
Next up, Bobby Steveson picked up where Wanzek had left off, flying off the opening whistle with heavy hand-fighting and taking down Shwan Shadaia three times in the opening two minutes. Those three takedowns held up throughout the match, as Steveson defeated Shadaia, 8-5.
In the night’s final contest, No. 2 Brett Pfarr delivered his sixth straight bonus-point win for the Gophers, once again showcasing the signature elements of his style. Pfarr took down Matt Okaiye on a series of single-leg shots, as well as a counter off Okaiye’s best shot of the match, on his way to a 16-5 victory. Friday’s was the seventh straight match where Pfarr has not conceded a takedown to his opponent.
Full match-by-match results are listed below.
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Friday’s win marked the 11th time in the past 12 seasons that the Maroon and Gold has won its Big Ten opener. It was also the Minnesota’s ninth straight in its series against Michigan State, and its 20th in the last 21 against the Spartans.
The Gophers will not have much time to enjoy the victory in their conference-opener. They will head across the state to Ann Arbor tomorrow to prepare for a Sunday matinee against No. 10 Michigan (3-0, 0-0). That match is set to begin at Cliff Keen Arena at 1 p.m. Central and will be livestreamed on BTN Plus.
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Minnesota 20 Michigan State 17
285: No. 6 Michael Kroells (Minn) dec Jacob Cooper (MSU), 1-0 | Minn 3 — MSU 0
125: Logan Griffin (MSU) dec Skyler Petry (Minn), 9-3 | Minn 3 — MSU 3
133: No. 17 Mitch McKee (Minn) dec Austin Eicher (MSU), 9-3 | Minn 6 — MSU 3
141: No. 12 Javier Gasca (MSU) maj dec Gannon Volk (Minn), 11-1 | Minn 6 — MSU 7
149: Nick Trimble (MSU) maj dec James Berg (Minn), 12-4 | Minn 6 — MSU 11
157: No. 12 Jake Short (Minn) dec Austin Thompson (MSU), 4-2 | Minn 9 — MSU 11
165: Drew Hughes (MSU) fall (4:51) Brandon Kingsley (Minn) | Minn 9 — MSU 17
174: No. 16 Nick Wanzek (Minn) maj dec Logan Ritchie (MSU), 14-3 | Minn 13 — MSU 17
184: Bobby Steveson (Minn) dec Shwan Shadaia (MSU), 8-5 | Minn 16 — MSU 17
197: No. 2 Brett Pfarr (Minn) maj dec Matt Okaiye (MSU), 16-5 | Minn 20 — MSU 17
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