Another weekend, another wild one.
Although a solid third at the Southern Scuffle to start 2014, Minnesota, by its own standards, did not wrestle particularly well. Two weekends later, the Gophers took another body blow, falling to Big Ten rival Michigan, which was ranked nineteenth at the time.
What a difference a week makes.
Last Saturday afternoon inside a hostile Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, J Robinson’s squad bounced back with a vengeance, beating second-ranked Iowa 19-15 on the strength of two matches with very unexpected outcomes.
Redshirt freshman Sam Brancale, a loser of four of his last six matches, shocked one of the nation’s best rookie 125-pounders, Thomas Gilman, with a first-period pin. Four bouts later, it was Dylan Ness’ turn. The two-time All-American, including a finals appearance two seasons ago, gave 2013 NCAA champion Derek St. John his first career loss at Carver-Hawkeye. Ness, coming off a loss to Michigan’s Brian Murphy, used some of his patented funk to rally in the third period of a 7-4 win against St. John.
When asked how Ness pulled off the decisive five-point move late, Robinson said, “Because he’s Ness. How is Superman able to fly? I don’t know. It’s not something that you can coach. It’s something that he has an ability to do. He has an ability at any time to do what he did today. That’s why he’s so dangerous.”
Added Robinson, “If you’ve done this long enough, whether it is Iowa, Oklahoma State or any of those, it doesn’t make any difference. Anything can happen. It doesn’t make any difference where you’re ranked or who you are. It just means you have to wrestle the whole time because the other side is going to bring their ‘A’ game.”
Minnesota hosts Penn State on Feb. 9.
Oklahoma, a week after falling to Northern Iowa, escaped Corvallis, Ore., when Travis Rutt beat Taylor Meeks in the dual’s final bout at 197 pounds for a 20-18 win.
The sixth-ranked Sooners were without 125-pound All-American Jarrod Patterson, whose replacement, Sean Williams, was pinned.
The Ghosts of McCuskey and Koll
While Iowa and Iowa State usually get the wrestling headlines in the state of Iowa, UNI is certainly getting some ink this season. It is nothing new, however. For the uninitiated, UNI had powerhouse squads under Dave McCuskey and Bill Koll, winning the 1950 NCAA Championship on its home mats.
Under former Iowa NCAA champion Doug Schwab, the Panthers remained unbeaten in 2013-14 with a solid 24-10 win against No. 7 Missouri last Friday night. The win followed conquests of Central Michigan and former No. 4 Oklahoma in Norman.
Led by a pair of veterans in Joe Colon, the top-ranked 133-pounder in the country, and Ryan Loder, a physically imposing 184-pounder who finished seventh at the 2013 NCAA Championships, UNI (7-0) also has a pair of talented rookies in 125-pounder Dylan Peters (21-4) and 165-pounder Cooper Moore (18-5).
Central Michigan won every Mid-American Conference title from 2002 to 2012. Former Big 12 member Missouri, now in the MAC, ended that run in 2013 with a 48-point margin of victory against the Chippewas. UNI was 53 points behind Missouri. The team to beat, at least to this point of 2013-14, is UNI, a program that has finished in the top ten at the NCAA Championships only three times (1982, 1983, 1992) since rejoining Division I in 1981 after a 17-year stint in Division II.
Looking for a Match?
A number of quality duals highlight this weekend’s schedule, perhaps led by Missouri’s trip to Norman to face Oklahoma on Thursday and to Stillwater on Friday to face Oklahoma State. Friday is a rivalry night with Ohio State-Michigan, Purdue-Indiana, and North Carolina-North Carolina State facing off. The rivalry theme continues Saturday with friendly neighbors Pittsburgh and West Virginia butting heads.
The All-Academy Championships are Saturday in New London, Conn.
The Big Ten’s Nebraska and Illinois and Penn State at Michigan highlight Sunday’s duals.
By the Numbers
• Longtime Coast Guard head coach Steve Eldridge announced his retirement last week after 47 years. Eldridge, who came to the UCGA in 1966, also coached cross country for forty-three years, leading the Academy to NCAA Division III titles in 1989 and 2001. He was inducted into the Division III Hall of Fame in 1995 and given the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award by the National Wrestling Coaches Association in 2013. On Sunday at the NEWA Duals, Eldridge’s squad went 1-3 with a victory against Norwich.
• Division II power Central Oklahoma picked up the program’s 500th dual victory last week. Head coach David James, in his 32nd year at UCO, owns 371 of those victories.
• Division III juggernaut Wartburg moved its dual win streak to 50 overall and 171 against members of the IIAC with three victories on Saturday. The reigning national champions outscored Buena Vista, Dubuque, and Central 129-10. Heavyweight Ryan Fank became the program’s all-time pins leader with 44.
• Another DIII juggernaut, Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Nazar Kulchytskyy, won the 165-pound NCAA title in 2013 a year after claiming top honors at 157 pounds as a sophomore. Now a senior, the Ukrainian is back at 157 pounds where he owns a 16-2 record after his eighth pin of the season last Thursday. The winner of the NCAA’s Most Dominant Award for DIII in 2013, Kulchytskyy is 103-3 for his career with two of the three losses coming to DI opponents.
• Cornell hammered Rutgers 29-9 on Sunday. The Big Red (7-0) have now won 31 in a row against Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association foes.