Despite finishing with their lowest place (fourth) at the NWCA National Duals since 2004, the defending national champion Golden Gopher wrestling team (8-3, 0-0 Big Ten) moved up to No. 5 in the latest USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll. Minnesota had held the No. 1 spot before its loss to then-No. 2 Iowa State on Dec. 2, and was ranked sixth entering last weekend’s National Duals.
In the individual rankings, sophomore Jayson Ness (Bloomington, Minn.) gained the No. 1 spot at 125 pounds with a stellar 4-0 weekend performance. Ness topped previously top-ranked Paul Donahue of Nebraska by a 6-4 overtime decision on Sunday and is now officially 3-0 lifetime against Donahue (not including an exhibition loss at the 2007 NWCA All-Star Classic). The No. 1 ranking is the first of Ness’ career, as he had previously been ranked as third this season.
Ness also picked up another pin during the National Duals and now has 16 for the season. He is just four shy of the Gophers’ single-season mark, set by current Gopher head assistant coach (and fellow Bloomington-Kennedy high school graduate) Marty Morgan.
Gopher senior Mack Reiter also won four matches during the weekend and moved up from No. 5 to No. 2 at 133 pounds. Other Gophers ranked in the top-20 of their respective weight classes include Manuel Rivera (No. 4 at 141 pounds), Dustin Schlatter (No. 1 at 149 pounds), C.P. Schlatter (No. 7 at 157 pounds), Gabriel Dretsch (No. 11 at 174 pounds) and Roger Kish (No. 5 at 184 pounds).
The Gophers return home to face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (0-3) this Sunday at the Sports Pavilion, the team’s first home competition since Dec. 6. Minnesota is 23-5 all-time against South Dakota State but has not competed in a dual meet against the Jackrabbits since 1978. The meet will begin at 2:00 p.m.
After their battle with SDSU, the Gophers will open Big Ten dual meet competition Jan. 25 at Michigan State, and will travel to Michigan Jan. 26 for a dual meet against the fourth-ranked Wolverines. Minnesota’s first home Big Ten dual meet will come against top-ranked Iowa on Feb. 1 at Williams Arena.
Check back with gophersports.com later this week for a complete Minnesota-South Dakota State preview.