The defending national champion Golden Gopher wrestling team enjoyed a solid first session at the 2008 NCAA Championships as they began their quest for a second straight title. Minnesota won six of nine matches during Thursday morning’s opening session at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis; the six winners will wrestle in Thursday evening’s championship second round. The other three wrestlers will be forced to make their way back up the bracket through wrestleback competition.
Minnesota was tied for fourth place with 15.5 points after the first session, 3.5 behind Big Ten champion Iowa (19).
The Gophers’ vaunted lightweight lineup breezed through Thursday’s opening matches, with Jayson Ness (125 pounds), Mack Reiter (133) and Manny Rivera (141) all scoring bonus points in their first competitions of the tournament. Ness picked up his 19th pin of the year in his opening-round match against UC Davis’ Marcus Orozco, while Reiter pinned Jeffery Schell (Brown) and Rivera won by technical fall over Edinboro’s Torsten Gillespie.
Brothers Dustin (149) and C.P. Schlatter (157) advanced with surprisingly close first round matches, as did returning two-time All-American Roger Kish (184). But Big Ten runner-up Gabe Dretsch was upset in overtime by Boise State’s Nathan Lee at 174 pounds, and unseeded wrestlers Justin Bronson (197) and Ben Berhow (Hwt.) dropped to the wrestlebacks with losses during Thursday’s action.
In his first match since losing his Big Ten title two weeks ago in Minneapolis, Ness came out of the gate aggressively against Orozco. The 2007 All-American built up a commanding lead in the opening minutes of the first period before turning Orozco on his back for the pin at 2:09. With 19 pins, Ness is now just one shy of tying the Golden Gophers’ single season mark of 20, set by current Minnesota head assistant coach Marty Morgan 18 years ago.
Reiter also looked impressive in his first-round match-up. He wasted little time corralling Brown’s Schell and pinned him in just 2:13, advancing to Thursday night's second round.
The Schlatter brothers took care of business themselves as they look to repeat as national champions. Dustin and Boise State’s Adam Hall were locked in a tight match for the first two periods before Schlatter pulled away with a third-period takedown in his 5-3 win. Older brother C.P. battled it out with Northern Iowa’s Tyson Reiner in a close 4-2 victory.
After a stellar performance at the Big Ten Championships, Dretsch’s opening-round loss was a definite blow to the Gophers’ title hopes. The Frazee, Minn. native and Boise State’s Lee managed just an escape apiece during seven minutes of regulation, sending the match into sudden victory overtime. But Dretsch got caught underneath just 36 into the frame, giving Lee the upset win and sending the Gopher senior to the wrestlebacks.
Wearing a large brace on his left shoulder (dislocated during the Big Ten semifinals), Kish took to the mat against Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Josh Edmundson in the first round at 184 pounds. Kish notched two takedowns and two escapes and held his own in a 6-3 win to advance to the second round.
Bronson was the first Gopher to hit the mat Thursday morning, but his pigtail round loss could mean a quick end for the senior’s first (and only) career NCAA appearance. Bronson took Army’s Richard Stark into overtime but lost in the second sudden victory period 5-2, dropping him to Thursday night’s wrestlebacks.
The redshirt freshman Berhow wrestled tough his first-ever NCAA Championships match, this one against ninth-seeded Jermail Porter of Kent State. The Hayward, Minn. native kept things close through two periods despite being significantly out-weighed by Porter, and tied the score briefly at six in the third period with a quick takedown. But Porter proved too physical in his 8-6 win and sent the Gopher heavyweight to Thursday evening’s wrestlebacks.
Thursday’s evening schedule is set to get underway at 6:30 p.m. at the Scottrade Center. Live updates for Minnesota’s matches will be available via gophersports.com and InterMat. Television coverage begins Friday at 10 a.m. (CT), with ESPNU broadcasting three hours of early round action and Friday night’s semifinals (beginning at 6 p.m.).
Team Scores After Session One:
1. Iowa (19 points)
2. Central Michigan (18)
3. Iowa State (16)
4. Minnesota/Nebraska (15.5)
Session I Results:
125 No. 2 Jayson Ness, Second Seed
First Round: Ness pinned Marcos Orozco (UC Davis), 2:09
133 No. 8 Mack Reiter, Eighth Seed
First Round: Reiter pinned Jeffery Schell (Brown), 2:13
141 No. 5 Manuel Rivera, Fifth Seed
First Round: Rivera tech fall Torsten Gillespie (Edinboro), 16-0 (4:44)
149 No. 2 Dustin Schlatter, Second Seed
First Round: Schlatter dec. Adam Hall (Boise State), 5-3
157 No. 5 C.P. Schlatter, Fifth Seed
First Round: Schlatter dec. Tyson Reiner (Northern Iowa), 4-2
174 No. 8 Gabriel Dretsch, Eighth Seed
First Round: Nathan Lee (Boise State) dec. Dretsch, 3-1 SV1
184 No. 8 Roger Kish, Eighth Seed
First Round: Kish dec. Josh Edmundson (UT-Chattanooga), 6-3
197 Justin Bronson, Unseeded
Pigtails: Richard Stark (Army) dec. Bronson, 5-2 SV2
Hwt Ben Berhow, Unseeded
First Round: #9 Jermail Porter (Kent State) dec, Berhow, 8-6