The defending national champion Golden Gopher wrestling team will travel to Rochester, Minn. on Saturday to open their dual meet season with Northern Illinois, Northern Colorado and North Dakota State at the UCR Regional Sports Center. Saturday's Northern Quad action gets underway at 10 a.m. when the Gophers take on the Huskies. They will then turn around and face the Bears before ending the day with a 2 p.m. meet against the Bison. Saturday will mark the first-ever Northern Quadrangular.
Some Gopher Notes to Know:
The Minnesota Golden Gophers, defending NCAA Division national champions, appear poised to defend their crown this season. Minnesota returns nine of ten starters from a year ago and eight wrestlers who qualified for NCAAs, including four of its five 2007 All-Americans.
The national experts seem to agree that Minnesota is the team to beat once again in 2007-08: All four major wrestling national polls (NWCA, RevWrestling, W.I.N. Magazine and Amateur Wrestling News) have ranked the Gophers first overall in their preseason and early season polls. Last season, the Gophers were also ranked first nationally in all the preseason polls, coming on the heels of their runner-up finish at the 2005-06 NCAA Championships.
Not only are the Gophers one of the nation’s most highly-touted teams, nearly every individual starter is ranked in the top-10 of the national polls. According to the NWCA and Amateur Wrestling News polls, sophomore Jayson Ness is fouth in the country at 125 pounds, Mack Reiter is #2/4 overall at 133, Manuel Rivera is #9/6, Dustin Schlatter is ranked first in both polls, C.P. Schlatter is #5/4 at 157, Gabe Dretsch is #6/7 at 174 and Roger Kish is #2 in the NWCA poll and #1 in AWN.
In addition to their domination of tournament competition, the Gophers are nearly impossible to beat in dual meets Minnesota has only lost two dual meets the past two seasons combined and are 170-29 (.854) since 1997-98.
Minnesota has lost just one time in its history to any of the three teams at Saturday’s Northern Quad and are a combined 24-1 all-time against Northern Illinois, Northern Colorado and North Dakota State.
The Gophers have some recent history in Rochester Minnesota held two dual meets at the Civic Center in 2003 against Arizona State and Nebraska, beating the Sun Devils 20-15 and the Cornhuskers 17-16. In 2004, Minnesota took on Northern Iowa at the Civic Center, winning 20-15.
Six current Gophers hail from the Rochester area Ben Berhow (Hayward), Eric Johnson (Albert Lea), Mitch Kuhlman (Medford), Chris McPhail (Pine Island) and Zach Sanders (Wabasha).
Although Saturday marks the start of Minnesota’s dual meet season, the defending national champs have already participated in three preseason open tournaments. Minnesota won nine weight classes at the Nov. 10 Bison Open in Fargo, N.D. and two more at last Saturday’s Kaufman-Brand Open. In addition, nine Gopher freshmen competed at the Daktronics Open Nov. 3 in Brookings, S.D.
Four Gophers Ness, Dustin Schlatter, Reiter and Kish were absent at the Kaufman-Brand Open because of their participation in the 42nd Annual NWCA All-Star Classic Monday night in Eugene, Ore. Only Schlatter was able to grab a win (over Josh Churella of Michigan) in the event, touted as the nation’s premier one-day collegiate wrestling competition.
The 2007-08 iteration of Golden Gopher wrestling boasts eight seniors, including five returning starters. The recruiting class of 2003 (rated the best in the nation at the time) has finished in the top-10 at the national championships and either first or second at Big Tens every year.
To commemorate their 2007 national championship, the Minnesota wrestling team made a trip to the Washington, D.C. on Sept. 21. There, the Gophers visited the Capitol, Pentagon and met with President Bush at the White House.
Wednesday, the Golden Gophers announced their signing class for 2008, a group that includes six of the nation’s top recruits. Jake Deitchler, Atticus Disney, Ryland Geiger, Mario Mason, Matt Mincey and Cody Yohn have all signed National Letters of Intent and will wrestle for the Gophers beginning in the fall of 2008.
The Golden Gopher senior class, which came to Minnesota as the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2003, has lived up to the top billing. C.P. Schlatter won his second Big Ten title in 2007, while Mack Reiter and Roger Kish each have a conference championship to their credit. The three wrestlers have combined for five All-America distinctions. Gabriel Dretsch appeared in his third NCAA Championships in 2007 while Manuel Rivera made his second trip.
OFF TO A HOT START
Although Saturday marks the start of Minnesota’s dual meet season, several Gophers have been impressive in their early season open tournament action. Manny Rivera (7-0) and C.P. Schlatter (157) are undefeated in a combined 11 matches, while Mike Thorn (133) and Gabe Dretsch (174) are each 7-1 after participating in both the Bison and Kaufman-Brand Opens. Redshirt freshman Scott Glasser (165) has been impressive in the early going as well after posting a 17-2 record last season in tournament competition. Glasser is 8-2 this year and has defeated NCAA qualifying teammate Tyler Safratowich twice in head-to-head matches.
CYCLONE MATCH-UP LOOMS
Minnesota’s home dual meet season starts with a bang on Sunday, Dec. 2 when they host the Iowa State Cyclones at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena. Iowa State, which finished runner-up to the Gophers at last year’s NCAA Championships, is currently ranked second nationally by most polls. The Dec. 2 meet is also scheduled to be televised via tape delay by the Big Ten Network and will be shown on Dec. 7.