It’s not about how you start, but how you finish. The Golden Gopher wrestling team (4-1, 0-0) proved this to be true Thursday night as they dropped the first two matches only to come back and win six of the remaining eight matches to defeat Nebraska (2-1, 0-0) 25-13 at the Sports Pavilion.
This marks to second season in a row where Minnesota has dropped its first dual of the year, only to bounce back and win the next. Minnesota has not lost back-to-back home duals since January 28-30, 2005.
In a dual where many matches were decided in the last 30 seconds, Minnesota found a way to prevail out a match-up of two nationally-ranked squads. The turning point of the dual was fifth-ranked Mack Reiter’s last-second win over Nebraska’s No. 12 Kenny Jordan, giving Minnesota its first lead of the night at the 133 pound match (the meet began at 197 pounds). After losing two matches early, including an early heartbreaker for redshirt freshman heavyweight Ben Berhow, Minnesota pulled away for the comfortable victory. Minnesota is now 46-17-0 against the Cornhuskers all-time.
After Craig Brester defeated Justin Bronson 11-1 at 197 pounds to open the meet, Minnesota found themselves in an early 4-0 hole. Unfortunately, Berhow was turned away in the final seconds to fall by one point to the No. 14 Jon May, a Hutchinson, Minn. native, to put Nebraska ahead 7-0.
The night’s most highly-anticipated match never took place. Defending national champion and top-ranked Paul Donahue did not make the trip north for Nebraska due to an injury suffered last week. Minnesota’s No. 3 Jayson Ness earned six team points for the victory by forfeit.
At 133 pounds, Jordan started things off quick for Nebraska, taking down Reiter within the first nine seconds. Despite being shaken up by the initial impact, both wrestlers continued their aggressive style as Reiter struggled to escape from the ride of Nebraska’s Jordan. For all but the first nine seconds of the first period, Reiter found himself failing to break out of Jordan’s grasp as the Cornhusker accumulated 2:51 riding time.
While Reiter was able to wipe out a minute of riding time in the second period, the gap increased as Jordan earned an escape to push the score to 3-0. This didn’t last in the third, however, as Reiter was able to take down Jordan 15 seconds into the period, bringing the score to 3-2 and eating away at Jordan’s riding time.
After a Jordan escape, the two locked up again, continuing to struggle for position, but it was a stalling call against Jordan that swung momentum in Reiter’s favor. A Reiter takedown with just three seconds remaining in the match brought the crowd to its feet, giving Reiter the edge 5-4 and Minnesota the lead in the dual at 9-7.
Other highlights on the night for Minnesota were the performances of No. 2 Manny Rivera and top-ranked Dustin Schlatter, as each picked up wins to add to their undefeated seasons. Rivera’s performance was an offensive showcase, as he came out fighting with a takedown on Nebraska’s Robert Sanders halfway through the first period to give him the early lead. A late escape for Sanders cut into Rivera’s advantage, but that wouldn’t last as Rivera reversed the Nebraska ride and gained another three points on a nearfall that he would sustain through the final 30 seconds of the period. The third period belonged to Rivera, as he thwarted Jordan’s escape attempt with a quick takedown and proceeded to cruise from there, with another takedown and nearfall to ultimately give him the 15-3 major decision.
Schlatter’s match, on the other hand, was a gritty battle with No. 6 Jordan Burroughs. Despite a lockup to start the match, Schlatter found himself in control from the beginning. After an early second period escape gave him a 1-0 lead, Schlatter came out in the third period looking to pull ahead. As the stalemate continued, Burroughs finally put a point on the board with an escape with slightly over a minute left in the third. Despite a last-minute effort by Burroughs to take down the elusive Schlatter, riding time advantage gave Minnesota the win, 2-1, and make the final score 25-13 in favor of the Gophers.
Even with a 22-7 lead and the outcome of the meet essentially decided, the final three Gophers did not let up. No. 15 Scott Glasser fought hard and nearly pulled off the upset of No. 8 Stephen Dwyer, losing on a last-second escape 8-7. Seventh-ranked Gabe Dretsch was outdone 5-2 by No. 5 Brandon Browne in a physical battle, and second-ranked Roger Kish rebounded nicely from a tough loss Sunday to soundly defeat Vince Jones 6-2.
Minnesota travels to the West Coast Saturday for two dual meets. They will take on Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo beginning at 7 p.m. CST (5 p.m. Pacific). After several weeks off for the holiday break, Minnesota will return to action for the Southern Scuffle in Greensboro, N.C. (Dec. 29-30) before traveling to the National Duals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Jan 12-13. The Gophers come back home on January 20 when they host South Dakota State at 2:00 pm in the Sport Pavilion.
December 6, 2007 at Minneapolis, MN - 7:00 pm
#2 Minnesota 25, #12 Nebraska 13
197: #3 Craig Brester (N) maj Justin Bronson (MN) 11-1
Hwt: #14 Jon May (N) dec Ben Berhow (MN) 6-5
125: #3 Jayson Ness (MN) vs Forfeit
133: #5 Mack Reiter (MN) dec #12 Kenny Jordan (N) 5-4
141: #2 Manny Rivera (MN) maj Curtis Salazar (N) 15-3
149: #1 Dustin Schlatter (MN) dec #6 Jordan Burroughs (N) 2-1
157: #7 C.P. Schlatter (MN) vs Forfeit
165: #8 Stephen Dwyer (N) dec #15 Scott Glasser (MN) 8-7
174: #3 Brandon Browne (N) dec #7 Gabe Dretsch (MN) 5-2
184: #2 Roger Kish (MN) dec #11 Vince Jones (N) 6-2