The No. 3 Gophers wrestling team will face No. 9 Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Friday at Maturi Pavilion in its first Big Ten dual meet of this season. It will be televised live on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m.
Four of the expected matches will involve ranked wrestlers. At heavyweight, it will be No. 2 Gable Steveson (5-0) of the Gophers vs. No. 5 Trent Hillger (6-1) in the night’s only meeting of top five wrestlers.
Former Gophers star turned pro wrestler and mixed martial arts fighter Brock Lesnar will be in the house as an honorary coach.
Here are the other top matches, with the Gopher wrestler listed first: 141 pounds, No. 2 Mitch McKee (19-1) vs. No. 9 Tristan Moran (6-1); 149, No. 4 Brayton Lee (17-2) vs. No. 12 Cole Martin (5-2); and 184, No. 17 Owen Webster (15-5) vs. No. 13 Johnny Sebastian (3-1).
Wisconsin also has No. 1-ranked Seth Gross (6-1) at 133 pounds — one of two possible wrestlers listed at his weight for this dual. He is a transfer from South Dakota State who went to Apple Valley High School. Gross won an NCAA Division I title in 2018 but sat out last season because of an injury.
“It is going to be fun, it is going to be exciting,” Gophers coach Brandon Eggum said. “Our guys are going to have to go out and compete hard, and I am excited to watch them.”
Minnesota, 5-3 in nonconference duals, beat the Badgers 27-13 and has not lost to Wisconsin (7-1, 0-1 Big Ten) in over 10 seasons.
• WWE champion Brock Lesnar will be the Gophers’ honorary coach as the program celebrates the 20th anniversary of his NCAA heavyweight title in 2000.
Aussies back in Mankato
The Aussie Peppers, a softball team comprised mostly of players from Australia’s national program, will return to Mankato this summer to play in the National Pro Fastpitch league (NPF) and prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The Peppers were based in Mankato last summer in a partnership between Softball Australia and the Mankato Peppers youth softball organization. The team finished fifth in the NPF standings with a 12-31 record, then won the Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament in September to earn a spot in the Tokyo Games. Australia, one of six teams that will compete in Tokyo, has won medals in every Olympic softball tournament.
“We simply don’t have access to the level of competition in the NPF Down Under,’’ said Laing Harrow, coach of the Peppers and the Australian national team.
“Our partnership with the [Mankato] Peppers was absolutely crucial to our Olympic qualifier campaign. The NPF will again provide us valuable game time at the elite level as we prepare for our return to the Olympic Games.’’
• Wayzata’s Lambert Brown, whose Trojans beat Champlin Park 35-20 to win the Class 6A title in the Prep Bowl, is one of the 32 nominees for the Don Shula Award to honor the top high school coaches in the country, the NFL announced. The nominees will be invited to attend the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 26, when the winner will be announced.
• Bethel forward Taite Anderson was named to D3hoops.com’s women’s team of the week. Anderson, a senior from White Bear Lake, averaged 25 points per game and seven rebounds as the Royals won both their games last week to improve to 11-0 — the best start in program history.