The University of Minnesota wrestling team returns to action this weekend following a nearly two week -long hiatus after a sixth place finish at the National Duals.
The Gophers get their weekend started with a trip to Tempe, Ariz. to take on the Sun Devils on Friday night. The trip to the desert is the Gophers’ first since Dec. 7, 2004 when Minnesota won a 22-16 decison over ASU.
Minnesota will return to the Twin Cites on Sunday to kick off their Big Ten dual meet schedule against Michigan State. The Gophers won last year’s meeting with the Spartans by a 23-15 score in East Lansing.
Two-time All-American Jayson Ness has lived up to his reputation for piling up pins again this season. A year after tying former head assistant coach Marty Morgan’s school record with 20 pins, the Bloomington, Minn. native has picked up right where he left off, recording 14 pins in 25 matches this season.
Heading into the pair of duals this weekend, Ness needs only two more pins to tie former Gopher Billy Pierce (1992-96) for most pins in the history of the program with 51.
With three wins at the National Duals, Ness became the 34th wrestler in the history of the program to amass 100 career victories. Ed Giese (1982-86) compiled a 159-34-3 record during his career and still holds the all-time career wins record at the U.’\
Last Time Out
The Gophers put together a 3-2 record to finish sixth at the National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Jan. 10-11. Minnesota’s run included wins over Buffalo (27-13), No. 9 Wisconsin (22-15) and No. 14 Penn State (21-18).
Following a quarterfinal loss to top-ranked Iowa, the Gophers rallied in the consolation bracket with wins over ranked Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Penn State before falling to No. 6 Ohio State in the fifth place match.
Zach Sanders put together a perfect 5-0 weekend performance and improved his season record to an impressive 25-1 with his decision win over Nikko Triggas in the 125-pound match against Ohio State.
Sophomore heavyweight Joe Nord also completed a perfect National Duals, finishing 3-0 following a 4-3 win in the final match of the day over No. 16 Cory Morrison.
Gopher senior Tyler Safratowich also punctuated a solid National Duals performance in the final dual with a 6-4 win over Ohio State’s No. 15 Jason Johnstone at 157 pounds. The win for Safratowich capped off a 4-1 weekend performance and improved his 2008-09 record to 19-8.
Sanders Bursts Onto National Scene
Redshirt freshman Zach Sanders (Wabasha, Minn.) has been one of the most consistent wrestlers during the first half of the 2008-09 season for the Gophers. After taking over the 125-pound class from two-time All-American Jayson Ness who has moved up to 133 pounds this season, Sanders started his 2008-09 campaign with 15 consecutive victories.
The last four of those 15 wins came at the renowned Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 5-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Three of those four wins by Sanders at the Cliff Keen came against ranked foes.
Sanders got his first season of varsity competition underway by cruising to the 125-pound title at the Bison Open on Nov. 15. He also posted a 3-0 record en route to the 125-pound crown at the Kaufman-Brand Open on Nov. 21.
Sanders’ latest feather in his cap came when he put up a 5-0 record at the National Duals. His performance in Cedar Falls included a pair of pins and another win by major decision.
The Wabasha-Kellogg High School graduate has recorded bonus points in 15 of his 26 matches this season. He has six pins and four major decisions to go along with a team-leading five wins by technical fall.
'Saf' Closes In On Century Mark
Minnesota senior Tyler Safratowich has been a steady force for Minnesota this season, piecing together a 19-8 record with six pins. He has started each of the Gophers’ 13 duals this season and is ranked 14th nationally by the Amateur Wrestling News this week.
With a 95-41 career record, the Park Rapids, Minn. native needs just five more victories to become the 35th athlete in the history of Minnesota wrestling to earn 100 career wins.