#4/4 MINNESOTA (13-5, 4-1) vs. #8/9 Illinois (11-2, 3-1)Location
: Minneapolis, Minn.Arena
: Williams ArenaDate/Time
: Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, 7:00 p.m.Webcast
: A live webcast will be available in the Gold Zone at www.gophersports.com.
#4/4 MINNESOTA (13-5, 4-1) vs. #13/13 Wisconsin (11-4-1, 2-3)Location
: Minneapolis, Minn.Arena
: Williams Arena
: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2007, 2:00 p.m.Webcast
: A live webcast will be available in the Gold Zone at www.gophersports.com.
Illinois/Wisconsin Notes to Know:
The fourth-ranked and defending national champion Golden Gopher wrestling hopes to extend its two-meet winning streak this weekend when they host eighth-ranked Illinois and 13th-ranked Wisconsin at Williams Arena. The Illinois match-up will take place Friday night at 7 p.m., while the Badgers come to town Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Gophers have been solid this Big Ten season despite injuries to All-Americans Roger Kish and Dustin Schlatter. Minnesota is currently 13-5 overall, including 4-1 in Big Ten competition. The Gophers are 19-2 since the beginning of the 2005-06 season in Big Ten competition (7-1 in 05-’06, 8-0 in 06-’07).
Minnesota’s first road Big Ten weekend was a resounding success. The J Robinson-led Golden Gophers rolled over both 10th-ranked Northwestern (winning 33-12 Friday night in Evanston, Ill.) and unranked Purdue (32-8 Sunday in Lafayette, Ind.) in their first conference road dual meets of the season. The Gophers won seven of 10 matches with the Wildcats (which was broadcast live on the Big Ten Network) and followed that with a dominating 8-of-10 performance on Sunday afternoon.
The defending national champs have been outstanding in recent years against both the Illini and Badgers, this weekend’s opponents. Minnesota is 27-21-2 all-time against Illinois and 54-30-1 against Wisconsin. The Gophers won both of their meets with these two teams a year ago, topping both programs 28-12 in Champaign and Madison, respectively.
Last weekend’s victories were a nice bounce-back effort by the Gophers, who were coming off tight losses to No. 1 Iowa (Feb. 1) and No. 3 Oklahoma State (Feb. 3).
This weekend will likely see the return of No. 3 Dustin Schlatter to the lineup at 149 pounds. Schlatter has not wrestled since Dec. 30 at the Southern Scuffle due to a hamstring injury. The 2006 NCAA champion is a two-time All-American and boasts a 92-3 career record.
Seven of Minnesota’s 10 normal starters are ranked nationally in their respective weight classes. Jayson Ness (No. 1 at 125 pounds), Mack Reiter (No. 5 at 133 pounds), Manny Rivera (No. 3 at 141), Dustin Schlatter (No. 3 at 149 pounds), C.P. Schlatter (No. 6 at 157), Gabe Dretsch (No. 11 at 174) and Roger Kish (No. 10 at 184) all rank among the nation’s best.
Gopher fans could be witness to history this weekend when top-ranked Jayson Ness takes the mat at 125 pounds. Ness picked up his 18th pin of the season on Sunday at Purdue and is now just two shy of Marty Morgan’s single-season record, which he could tie against Wisconsin’s Colin Cudd on Sunday.
Ness’ two wins over the weekend also improved his overall record to 30-0, giving him a 31-match winning streak. That is now the ninth-longest streak in Golden Gopher history and still the second-longest active streak at the Divison I level (behind Josh Glenn of American University).
Ness’ 18th pin also put him in sole possession of first place on the NCAA leaderboard. Kurt Kinser (Indiana) and Darion Caldwell (N.C. State) have 17 pins this season.
The 2008 Big Ten Championships are fast approaching. Williams Arena will play host to the nation’s premier conference tournament March 8-9. Minnesota has won the last two tournaments, winning four individual titles last year in East Lansing, Mich. The Gophers have not hosted the Big Ten Championships since 1997.
THE SERIES VS. ILLINOIS
The Gophers hold a 27-21-2 advantage in the all-time series against Illinois. Before their 28-12 last year in Champaign, the Illini had held the upper-hand, winning the previous two meetings. Illinois topped the Gophers twice in dual meets during the 2004-05 season and
went on to capture to its first conference title since 1952, finishing 6.5 points ahead of the Gophers at the 2005 Big Ten Championships.
THE LAST TIME VS. ILLINOIS (2/4/07)
In a battle between the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Ten on Feb. 4, 2007, top-ranked Minnesota clearly established itself as the class of the conference with a convincing 28-12 victory over No. 11 Illinois. The Golden Gophers won seven of 10 matches on the day to improve to 16-1 overall keep its perfect Big Ten record intact at 5-0.
Fourth-ranked Jayson Ness pinned No. 6 Gabe Flores in the first match of the day, and Tyler Safratowich upset his third-straight ranked opponent to lead the Gophers to victory. Other key wins for the Gophers came from Manuel Rivera and Roger Kish, who each defeated ranked opponents, and top-ranked Dustin Schlatter returned to dominant form with a tech fall at 149 pounds.
THE SERIES VS. WISCONSIN
Minnesota leads the all-time series against Wisconsin, 54-30-1. The Golden Gophers snapped a two-meet losing skid against the Badgers with a 26-12 victory in 2007 in Minneapolis, and started their own winning streak with a 28-12 win last season in Madison. Head coach J Robinson holds a 16-9 record against Wisconsin during his career. In the 16 wins, Minnesota has won by an average of 22 points.
THE LAST TIME VS. WISCONSIN (2/16/07)
The top-ranked University of Minnesota wrestling team) wrapped up the Big Ten regular season crown with a convincing 28-12 victory over Wisconsin on Feb. 16, 2007 in Madison. The Golden Gophers won seven of 10 matches on the nigh to remain unbeaten in conference action and extend their winning streak to 19 consecutive matches overall.
Top-ranked heavyweight Cole Konrad and No. 4 Jayson Ness both picked up pins to lead the Gophers to victory. With his win, Konrad extended his winning streak to 66 consecutive matches and moved within four of the school record for pins in a career. Roger Kish improved to 28-1 on the season by scoring a career-high 24 points to earn a tech fall at 184 pounds, and second-ranked Manuel Rivera remained unbeaten at 34-0 with a come-from-behind victory at 141.
In the marquee match of the night at 157 pounds, sixth-ranked C.P. Schlatter fell to No. 5 Craig Henning after three controversial stall warning penalties in the third period.
TOUGH WEEKEND AHEAD FOR C.P.
Both Illinois and Wisconsin pose tough tests for the defending national champion Gophers, but no wrestler has a tougher road ahead of him that senior C.P. Schlatter. The returning All-American and Big Ten champion draws No. 3 Mike Poeta on Friday and No. 5 Craig Henning on Sunday. Wins in both matches will most likely move Schlatter up to No. 1 in the national rankings and give him the inside edge for the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Poeta was ranked first nationally at 157 pounds before being upset by Indiana’s Brandon Becker on Sunday. He and Schlatter had three memorable matches last season. Schlatter beat Poeta 2-1 in the semifinals at the Big Ten Championships en route to his first conference crown, before losing 5-4 in the quarterfinals at the NCAA Championships. Poeta also beat C.P. 3-2 during their regular season match.
Schlatter and Henning have faced each other one time the past two seasons, with Henning winning both matches (which came during dual meets). On Feb. 16 of last year (a 28-12 Gopher win in Madison), Henning won a 5-3 decision; during the Gophers’ 26-12 win at the Sports Pavilion in 2006, Henning was victorious 7-4.
NESS APPROACHES HISTORY
Jayson Ness has been the story of the year so far for the Golden Gophers, climbing to the top of the 125 rankings while going a perfect 30-0. Sunday, he picked up his 18th pin of the season at Purdue and is currently just two shy of Marty Morgan’s single-season record, which the current Gopher head assistant coach set in 1989-90. He could tie the record with two pins this weekend, but has a tough task ahead of him namely No. 9 Gabe Flores of Illinois and No. 19 Collin Cudd of Wisconsin. Ness pinned Flores twice (in 2:25 during their dual meet match and again in 4:22 at the Big Ten Championships) and did not face Cudd as a freshman last season.
Currently, Ness leads all Division I wrestlers with those 18 pins.
FRAZEE COMES TO SUPPORT DRETSCH
Sunday’s meet vs. Wisconsin marks Gabe Dretsch/Frazee Community Day at Williams Arena. Dretsch, a three-time NCAA qualifier and four-year starter for the Gophers, hails from the 1,300-resident community of Frazee in Northern Minnesota. As a prep star, Dretsch led the Hornets to two state championships and won an individual state title of his own as a senior.
DUSTIN TO RETURN THIS WEEKEND?
Gopher fans could see the return of former NCAA Champion and two-time All-American Dustin Schlatter this weekend, as he has been deemed “probable” by the Gopher coaching staff. Schlatter, who has not wrestled since the Dec. 30 Southern Scuffle due to a hamstring injury, is 13-1 this season (including 5-0 in dual meets). He owns a career record of 92-3, good enough for the best winning percentage in school history (.968). Gopher 149-pounders have just one dual meet win his Schlatter’s absence.
LOOKING TO BREAK THROUGH AT WILLIAMS
The Golden Gophers competed in Williams Arena for the first time since the 2005-06 season this year, after holding all of their home competitions in the Sports Pavilion during the national championship run in 2006-07. Friday and Sunday’s meets will mark the third and fourth Williams Arena meets of the season for the Gophers, but they have yet to pick up a win in the building, falling 18-13 to Iowa State Dec. 2 and 20-13 to Iowa on Feb. 1. The 2008 Big Ten Championships will also be held in Williams Arena March 8-9.
OTHER MARQUEE MATCH-UPS
While C.P. Schlatter probably has the toughest road this weekend, he isn’t the only Golden Gopher that will face two high-quality opponents this weekend. Fifth-ranked Mack Reiter will grapple with No. 9 Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois on Friday and No. 11 Zach Tanelli of the Badgers Sunday. Reiter will be looking to avenge his 6-3 loss to Kennedy last season in Madison. Reiter beat Tanelli twice last year a 9-3 dual meet win in Champaign and a pin in 4:02 in the third place match at the Big Ten Championships.
Manuel Rivera, currently 27-4 this season and ranked third nationally at 141 pounds, will take on No. 11 Ryan Prater Friday and No. 6 Kyle Ruschell Sunday. Rivera beat Ruschell (then ranked No. 15) 8-6 during their Feb. 16 meeting last season.