J Robinson wasn't about to blame the missing links in his lineup for the Gophers' loss to Oklahoma State. Had more of his wrestlers come through, the coach said, his top-ranked team could have overcome illness and injury against the No. 3 Cowboys Sunday at the Sports Pavilion.
But when Nick Dardanes was pinned only 52 seconds into his match, the Gophers fell into a tailspin that led to their first dual-meet loss of the season. After winning the first two matches, the Gophers (6-1) dropped the next five, culminating in a 22-15 defeat. The Cowboys (2-0) began the rally with back-to-back pins from Julian Feikert, who upset Dardanes at 141 pounds, and No. 2 Jordan Oliver, who overpowered Seth Lange at 149.
The Gophers were missing David Thorn (ill), ranked No. 6 at 125 pounds, and Logan Storley (injured), ranked No. 3 at 174. Dylan Ness has been sidelined by injury all season.
The Gophers swept the final three weights, including the day's marquee match between the nation's top two heavyweights. No. 1 Tony Nelson defeated No. 2 Alan Gelogaev 2-0 to extend his win streak to 35 matches, including a 10-0 record this season. That was little comfort to Robinson, who was disappointed in his wrestlers' inability to overcome their hardships.
"A No. 1 team finds a way to win, and that's what we should have done,'' Robinson said. "Those are all excuses. We had a chance and an opportunity to win, and we didn't make it happen. That's just not acceptable.''
Robinson was happy with the performance of Corey Hodowanic, who stepped in for Thorn and scored a gritty victory over Tyler Dorrell in the meet's first match. Dorrell led 4-3 after two periods, but Hodowanic (6-2) staved off exhaustion to score two on a reverse with 38 seconds remaining to win 5-4.
At 133 pounds, No. 5 Chris Dardanes defeated No. 8 Jon Morrison 3-1 to put the Gophers ahead 6-0. But Feikert's quick pin of Nick Dardanes put the Cowboys on a roll. The Cowboys extended their margin to 22-6 before the Gophers got back on track.
Nelson got some personal satisfaction by defeating Gelogaev, who scored a major decision over Nelson as the Cowboys beat the Gophers in a dual meet last year. Still, Nelson was stung by the team's first loss.
Robinson said Storley should rejoin the lineup for the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2, and he hopes Ness will be ready then, too. He also expects the rest of his roster to be better prepared. "The reason we wrestle [top teams] early is that we've got three months to figure it out before it gets serious.''