Rand: Gophers' heaviest wrestlers are worth the wait

  • Updated: January 24, 2013 - 8:39 PM

2DAY'S 2 CENTS U-Iowa wrestling • Saturday • Minneapolis


Virginia's Jonathan Fausey, left, and Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus grapple during their 184-pound NCAA second-round match last spring.

Photo: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

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The Gophers wrestling team trailed Illinois 14-6 heading into the final four weight classes in Monday's dual. In other words, Minnesota had the Illini just where it wanted them. All four Gophers wrestlers won their bouts, resulting in an 18-14 comeback victory, and they are now a combined 28-1 in dual meets this season. ¶ The stakes are only getting higher as the Gophers, ranked No. 4 in the nation by InterMat, prepare to host No. 3 Iowa in a dual meet at 3 p.m. Saturday at Williams Arena. It is unclear whether Gophers head coach J Robinson, who has been sidelined for two weeks with a knee infection, will be able to return to the sideline for Saturday's competition. But this much is clear: The four heaviest wrestlers in the Gophers' starting lineup relish the challenge of competing against Iowa and potentially having the match determined during their seven minutes in the circle. Here are their thoughts on both subjects:


On facing Iowa: "Minnesota and Iowa have been going at it for a long time. One thing we're really looking forward to is a big crowd. I'm sure they'll bring a lot of people and we're going to have a lot of people. There's more excitement than even a regular dual."

On the pressure at the bottom of the lineup: "It's pressure, but only in a positive way. It adds more motivation and helps you get amped up if you're down in the team score. We knew what we had to do against Illinois. ... We were almost joking around about it before, like, 'OK, let's go clean this thing up.'"


On facing Iowa: "Last year as a true freshman it really opened my eyes to what the whole Iowa-Minnesota thing meant. They don't like us, we don't like them. We have to go out there and put it to them. Brock Lesnar is from my hometown [in South Dakota], and he didn't like Iowa very much. I learned from him."

On the pressure at the bottom of the lineup: "Our top four guys have wrestled really well, and we kind of put it on ourselves that the dual is going to come down to the heavier guys. We have to perform if we're winning 30-0 or if we're down. I like it. It's not fun to sit and wait the whole dual, but it puts that pressure on you to wrestle well."


On facing Iowa: "It's a lot of fun. I like having that rivalry, and I like how things do seem a little different when you wrestle Iowa. But it still changes nothing about the match in front of me. The fans really get into it, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. It will be fun on the elevated stage."

On the pressure at the bottom of the lineup: "We try not to look at it too much. It doesn't help you wrestle the seven minutes at all. We try not to pay attention to it, but it's still there. You know the score."


On facing Iowa: "It's a huge rivalry, and there's a great history with wrestling. We're always fighting for the top spot in the nation. I'd say there's a respect, but with the fans and everything there's a dislike there, too. But it makes it fun for us, too."

On the pressure at the bottom of the lineup: "I was talking about that with John Peterson, a former Olympic gold medalist, the other day. I like it when it comes down to me. I'm able to be in control. I've been there plenty of times before, and I'm kind of used to it. It is pressure, but I've learned to turn it into a good thing."


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