The No. 7 Gophers routed No. 17 Illinois 26-12 on Friday night in a Big Ten dual wrestling meet in Champaign, Ill.
A 11-0 major decision by Tommy Thorn at 149 pounds, a pin in the third period by Steve Bleise at 157 and another 12-4 major decision at 174 by Devon Skatzke helped give Minnesota (9-2, 2-1 Big Ten) a 20-3 lead.
The Illini (2-3, 1-2) won the next two matches before No. 1-ranked Gable Steveson got a pin at heavyweight for Minnesota to improve to 21-0.
Cashman to combine
Former Gophers linebacker Blake Cashman, the team’s leading tackler in 2018, received an invitation to the NFL combine, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.
Cashman, a former walk-on from Eden Prairie, led Minnesota with 104 tackles (62 solo), tied for the team lead with Carter Coughlin with 15 tackles for loss and added 2.5 sacks. Cashman opted to skip the Gophers’ appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.
The combine will be held Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis.
Cashman, 6-2, 235 pounds, was especially strong late in the season for the Gophers, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown in the 41-10 rout of Purdue. In a 24-14 loss to Northwestern, he made a career-high 20 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Cashman was the highest-graded linebacker in the Big Ten this season by Pro Football Focus, which also named him as a second-team All-America selection. He was named second-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s media members.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Cashman has a bright NFL future.
“He’s not your prototypical really tall, rangy linebacker, but that guy’s going to play in the NFL if he stays healthy,’’ Fleck said in November.
“I think he can play in the NFL for a long time, especially on special teams and as a ’backer on certain [coverage] packages.’’
Cashman dealt with shoulder injuries during his Gophers career, needing three surgeries in the past year.