CHAMPAIGN, ILL. – The goal is the same as usual for the Gophers wrestling team: Take the Big Ten meet. It’s a reasonable expectation for a team coming off its victory in the National Duals. It’s a reasonable expectation for a team ranked No. 1 or 2 in the country, depending on your favorite college wrestling poll.
But after Saturday’s results, winning the Big Ten won’t be easy for the Gophers. Minnesota is in second place with 112.5 points, trailing first-place Penn State, which has 123. Iowa is in third with 109 points and Ohio State stands fourth with 92.
Sure, Minnesota moved four of its wrestlers into Sunday finals at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. But it suffered a stunning loss at 174 pounds, where No. 1-ranked Logan Storley was upset in the quarterfinal round, losing 3-2 to Michigan’s Dan Yates. Storley, who entered the meet with a 22-1 record, also dropped his second consolation match to Ohio State’s Nick Heflin, forcing him to compete for seventh place today.
“That was one we needed to win,” Minnesota head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said of Storley’s loss to Yates. “At the end of the day, you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some like that. It’s how do the guys respond and how do they come back?”
The Gophers won four of their five semifinal matches Saturday night. The lone loss, by 141-pounder Nick Dardanes, came in overtime against Iowa’s Mark Ballweg. Dardanes appeared to win the match with a late takedown in the third period, but officials went to video review and determined the takedown came after time expired.
“Overall, I think most of the guys showed up and wrestled very, very well,” Eggum said.
“The guys in wrestlebacks did an excellent job. We talked about it before we came over here. This is a team effort and each guy’s got to make sure he comes out and scores points. Those are tough rounds for those guys.”
With four of the top six teams in the country competing in the Big Ten meet, no match is a breather, Eggum said.
“Everybody is getting a good test here and you’ve got to wrestle for the full 7 minutes,” Eggum said. “You look at the rankings up and down in every weight class, the Big Ten is loaded.”
Kevin Steinhaus advanced to the semifinals with a pair of technical falls, stopping Northwestern’s Jacob Berkowitz in the first round and Indiana’s Luke Sheridan in the quarterfinals.
After his match early afternoon match against Sheridan, Steinhaus had a quick snack before heading back to the team’s nearby hotel.
“Everybody’s got to wrestling hard, keep winning matches, keep getting bonus points,” Steinhaus said. “It’s all big.”