The defending national champion Minnesota Golden Gopher wrestling team enjoyed a successfully opening to its Big Ten season Friday night with a 23-15 win over Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. The fourth-ranked Gophers (10-3) notched bonus points in four of their five match wins and held off the pesky Spartans (3-6) even without the services of injured stars Roger Kish and Dustin Schlatter.
The win was Minnesota’s ninth in their last 10 Big Ten openers and their 13th in 14 tries against Michigan State. The Spartans have beaten the Gophers just one time (2005) since 1996.
Friday night’s match was closer than the final score would indicate, however. The dual meet began at 149 pounds, and Minnesota jumped out to a 13-3 lead after No. 11 Gabe Dretsch pinned MSU’s No. 19 John Murphy in just 46 seconds for his 100th career victory.
But the Spartans battled back and closed the gap to 17-15 after fifth-ranked Franklin Gomez won a tight match with Minnesota’s second-ranked Mack Reiter at 133 pounds, a 7-4 decision in favor of the MSU wrestler. But No. 4 Manny Rivera clinched the dual meet victory for the Gophers with a pin in 4:04 over Michigan State’s Micah Carter in the final match of the evening.
Earlier in the dual, top-ranked 125-pounder Jayson Ness improved his overall season record to 25-0 with a dominating 15-3 major decision victory over MSU’s Joel Trombley. Ness has earned bonus points in 80 percent of his matches this season, including four major decisions and a whopping 16 pins. He remains just four shy of the Gopher single-season pins record.
The match of the night was the Reiter-Gomez dual, one of just two match-ups between ranked wrestlers on the evening. Gomez jumped out to an early 4-1 lead after one period on the strength of two early takedowns, but Reiter battled back to pull within two points at 5-3 with just over a minute to go in the third period. However, a dramatic Gomez takedown with only 20 seconds remaining in the match sealed the victory for the Spartan. The loss was just Reiter’s second on the season (15-2 overall); he also dropped a match to Iowa State’s Nick Fanthorpe last Dec. 2.
Other victories for the Gophers came from No. 7 C.P. Schlatter at 157 pounds (a 10-2 major decision win over John Fulger) and Tyler Safratowich at 165 pounds (a 12-5 decision over Rex Kendle).
Dretsch’s career victory number 100 came in his 149th career match. The fifth-year senior out of Frazee, Minn. improved to 21-6 overall this season, including 8-3 in dual meets.
Minnesota now turns its attention to the sixth-ranked Michigan Wolverines, who they will face Saturday night in Ann Arbor beginning at 6 p.m. Central time. The Wolverines have proven to be a thorn in the Gophers’ side during their run of dominance over the past decade, as Michigan has won three of their last four and five of their last seven match-ups with Minnesota. The Wolverines defeated the Gophers 23-16 earlier this year at the NWCA National Duals.
#4 Minnesota 23, Michigan State 15
149: Eddie Skowneski (MSU) dec. Luke Mellmer (MINN) 6-2
157: #7 C.P. Schlatter (MINN) maj. dec. John Fulger (MSU) 10-2
165: Tyler Safratowich (MINN) dec. Rex Kendle (MSU) 12-5
174: #11 Gabe Dretsch (MINN) pinned #19 John Murphy (MSU) 0:46
184: Nick Palmieri (MSU) dec. Mitch Kuhlman (MINN) 3-1
197: #15 Joe Williams (MSU) dec. Justin Bronson (MINN) 5-2
Hwt: Alan O’Donnell (MSU) dec. Ben Berhow (MINN) 10-7
125: #1 Jayson Ness (MINN) maj. dec. Joel Trombly (MSU) 15-3
133: #5 Franklin Gomez (MSU) dec. #2 Mack Reiter (MINN) 7-4
141: #4 Manuel River (MINN) pinned Micah Carter (MSU) 4:04