It seemed like the start of another bad weekend for the Gophers wrestling program. After narrowly losing the opening match last Sunday, Purdue strung together three consecutive victories to build a commanding 15-3 lead on the Gophers' home mat.
The No. 17 Gophers (7-6) have struggled this season, entering last weekend with a .500 record in dual meets and not having won back-to-back duals since the season's first weekend. This trend, however, wouldn't get in the way of junior Ben Morgan shining in his dual-meet debut.
Morgan pinned his opponent 89 seconds into his match to snatch the lead back for the Gophers in what became a 23-18 comeback victory. The junior's pin at 133 pounds was the fourth of five consecutive wins that wiped out that large early deficit. The Gophers hope the dramatic comeback can be a rallying point heading into Friday's visit to No. 2 Iowa (13-0).
"[Morgan] was a great spark in what happened," longtime Gophers coach J Robinson said. "Going into the second half [of the meet], how many people in the gym would have bet we were going to win? Not many.
"That's what happens when you get in situations like that. The things that make legends and make teams great are other people that aren't supposed to step up but step up and do something miraculous, and that's what Ben did."
Going into the match, Morgan thought he should stick to the basics and wrestle to his strengths. But he felt like he could do something more. Following his instincts, Morgan pinned Luke Welch to give the Gophers a 20-15 lead.
"It wasn't totally planned, but I told myself right before the match that if I feel something, I've got to attack it," Morgan said. "We needed a pin and it would definitely help the team out.
"There is not a better feeling than getting a pin in front of your home crowd, and I've been coming to these meets since I was 5 years old, so being the guy out there getting the crowd going really means something."
His father, Gordy, and his uncle, Marty, both wrestled for the Gophers. Gordy also was a 1996 Olympian.
Morgan had been in a backup role and was filling in for injured Sam Brancale. The two will compete for a spot in the lineup Friday against the Hawkeyes.
The Gophers upset No. 8 Rutgers 17-16 two weeks ago, and after last Sunday's comeback victory Robinson likes the direction of his young team. The Gophers won the last meeting with the Hawkeyes in Iowa City two years ago, 19-15.
"When you're having a year like we're having, you always look at the valleys more than you look at the peaks," the coach said. "And a couple weeks in a row they've wrestled really well. What that does is build confidence in what they're doing, and as a result they'll wrestle harder, and then as a result of that they'll win more.
"[Morgan's big win] are the things that spark a team and those are the things that sometimes turn teams around in the middle of the season."