Minnesota beat Oklahoma State and Iowa on the road earlier this season. On Sunday, in front of 5,603 in the cozy confines of the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, the Golden Gophers beat reigning national champion Penn State 18-17 in a thriller.
Dual meets consist of 10 individual bouts, so a team effort is certainly required. But for the second time this season, it was Dylan Ness who flew higher than most.
In UM's win at Iowa on Jan. 25, Ness, a two-time All-American at 149 pounds, used his unorthodox, quick-strike skills to shock 2013 NCAA champion Derek St. John. It sparked the Gophers to a 19-15 victory. On Sunday, Ness, again with his living dangerously style, flipped Penn State's Dylan Alton for a pin 26 seconds into the final period.
"Big crowds, I love it, big atmosphere, I love it," Ness said. "I don't know … I'm less nervous when there are bigger crowds I guess. Coach [J Robinson] talked about how we don't get many opportunities like this, to cherish the moment."
Penn State won three of the next four bouts, but two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson decisioned Jon Gingrich to secure an 18-17 victory. Robinson's Gophers also beat PSU in 2011 and own a 13-6-1 all-time series advantage.
"[Former Olympic and Gophers hockey coach] Herbie Brooks said, 'Monumental things happen when you have opportunity,' " said Robinson, referring to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" against the mighty Soviet Union.
Penn State plays host to Oklahoma State this Sunday.
Iowa senior 133-pounder Tony Ramos picked up a 6-1 decision in the Hawkeyes' 26-6 win against Michigan on Sunday. It moved his record to 34-0 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa head coach Tom Brands and former national champion Brent Metcalf also finished their careers unbeaten on home mats.
"It's not something I was trying to think about all week long, but people keep asking about it," Ramos said. "To me I was trying not to make it a big thing, but it is a big thing. The last person to [go undefeated at home] four years was Tom, and three years was Metcalf. Those are big shoes to fill and that's a good class of people to be in."
It wasn't Ramos who stole the show Sunday, however. Hawk 149-pounder Brody Grothus trailed seventh-ranked Eric Grajales 9-5 after 3 minutes, was tied at 9 after 5 minutes, and tied at 14 after 7 minutes. Eventually, Grothus used a turn and escape in the first set of tiebreakers to win 17-14 … not the usual score of a wrestling match these days.
Injured knees, appendicitis, cauliflower nose … Mark Cody, head coach of Oklahoma, was forced to wrestle four backups on Sunday in the 170th meeting between the Sooners and Oklahoma State. All-American Jarrod Patterson (125), Danny Chaid (184) and Ross Larson (285) each won bouts in OU's 16-15 win against its rival in December. That trio, plus 157-pounder Justin DeAngelis, did not wrestle in Sunday's 29-9 Cowboys victory.
"It's unfortunate, because Bedlam is a big dual for us," said Cody, a former assistant coach at OSU. "I can't forfeit, and we are, with what we have right now due to injuries, in a tough situation. Against a team like Oklahoma State, one of the best in the country, you can't be without your starters.
An anticipated matchup between national champions Chris Perry and Andrew Howe never materialized. The unbeaten and top-ranked Howe wrestled at 184 pounds, picking up one of OU's three wins.
"It is what it is," said Perry, who pinned Sooner backup Derek Gieges at 174 pounds to put the hosts up 26-3. "All you can do is wrestle who they put in front of you."
Wartburg won the annual Division III "Battle of the Burgs" this past Thursday in Waverly, Iowa. Wartburg (16-0) moved its winning streak to 52 with a 23-9 win against Augsburg. The Knights are at Cornell College on Monday night.
Division III's fourth-ranked Olivet improved to 15-5 with a 49-0 win against Manchester this past weekend. Justin and Jeff Holm, both ranked among the top five at 141 and 184 pounds, respectively, are a combined 44-5 against DIII opponents this season. The Comets will step up two divisions this Friday when they travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State.
Cornell beat Columbia 22-15 this past Saturday to move its Ivy League winning streak to 63. It also gave the Big Red a 12th consecutive Ivy League title. Rob Koll's squad will most likely be the top challenger to Minnesota and this weekend's NWCA National Duals in Columbus, Ohio. Joining UM and Cornell is Bloomsburg, Central Michigan, North Dakota State, Ohio State, Hofstra, Oklahoma, Illinois, Oregon State, Iowa State, Chattanooga, Kent State and Virginia Tech.
Fifth-ranked UNI remained unbeaten with victories against Iowa State and Kent State during the weekend. UNI's victory against the Cyclones was its first since 2004. Sunday's match came down to criteria after each squad won five bouts -- UNI had 59 match points to KSU's 58 during the 10 individual bouts. The last time the Panthers finished a season unbeaten in duals was 1956 under Bill Koll.
Another example of the narrow margin for error in Division I took place in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday. Oregon State, ranked 22nd but without All-American 197-pounder Taylor Meeks in the lineup, dropped a 17-16 match to Arizona State. Each squad won five, but major decisions by Matt Kraus at 141 and Blake Stauffer at 184 provided the difference.