The J Robinson-less Minnesota Gophers travel to Michigan this weekend to take on the Spartans on Friday night and then the Wolverines on Sunday afternoon. The Gophers are coming off a 4th place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas with two champs, a 3rd, and a 4th.
That's probably unexpected positive momentum for a program that has had one of the worst off-seasons in wrestling history. Sophomore Tommy Thorn, sophomore Ethan Lizak, redshirt freshman Larry Early and sophomore Brandon Krone were suspended for violating team rules.
Still after a tough season and subsequent offseason, you can't expect a top program to suddenly become void of talent. However, Michigan & Michigan State are not feeling bad about wrestling them in December.
Before we preview Michigan vs Minnesota, what about Sparty? It's probably not a stretch to say Michigan State is favored at 125, 141, and 165. I don't know where they would pick up a couple more wins and win the bonus points battle, but it shouldn't be the 36-3 beating in their last meeting two years ago.
Here's a match by match preview for Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor. Michigan lost to Minnesota 20-19 in their last meeting two seasons ago, a year after Michigan stunned the national title contenders 19-14 in Ann Arbor when freshman Adam Coon took out Anthony Nelson. That was two straight years of the Wolverines looking for the upset. This year seems like more of a coin flip. There are tough to predict matches on paper at 133, 149, 157, and 174. If Michigan doesn't get the lion's share of those four, bonus points in the last three matches may allow the Gophers to steal the dual.
Michigan vs Minnesota
125: Austin Assad vs Skylar Petry
- Neither guy placed at the CKLV, but they did draw each other in the first round. Assad won 7-3, and we can probably expect a similar result.
133: #8 Stevan Micic vs #17 Mitch McKee
- This is another rematch from the CKLV. In the semis, McKee took a lead early, but Micic stormed all the way back to take a 9-7 win. McKee had a good weekend battling back for 4th. A 3-time Minnesota state champ, the freshman is proving that he has the talent to make a splash. It'll be interesting to see the rematch of a very exciting match.
141: Sal Profaci vs Gannon Volk
- Volk is filling in for Tommy Thorn, and it hasn't been going exceptionally well. Volk went 0-2 at the CKLV. Profaci was unseeded but won his first two including the #6 seed. He then dropped the next two. Can he get bonus points here? He has a gas tank so he possibly could which could be very important.
149: Zac Hall vs Freddy Stroker
- Both these guys were big recruits who have yet to really make their way on to the national scene. Neither placed at the CKLV. Stroker won three consolation matches before falling in the round of 12. Hall went 1-2 despite being seeded 8th. This should be considered a true coin flip of sorts.
157: #8 Brian Murphy vs #12 Jake Short
- Murphy was the 1-seed but fell victim to a pair of upsets that left him off the podium that Short topped. After the first round, Short won three close matches to claim the top award. Murphy has looked really good and not so much at different spots so far this year. It looks like a weight management issue at times. Short was a huge recruit who has not had the great results combined with some bad luck with injuries in two years at 149. Maybe 157 is the answer to all of this for him. It's another match where we don't know what to expect.
165: #2 Logan Massa vs Brandon Kingsley
- Massa is coming off his biggest win of his young college career defeating NCAA finalist and 2x Big Ten champ, Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin). Kingsley went 2-2 and has given up points to better competition this year. Massa may and probably will pour it on for his team here.
174: #9 Myles Amine vs #16 Nick Wanzek
- Amine has been a revelation while many people expected Davonte Mahomes to return to the spot mid-season. Amine suffered his first loss of the season in the quarters to eventual champ Valencia (Arizona State) but then battled back for 3rd. Wanzek also lost in the quarters, won a match, but then defaulted to Amine. I can't expect this being a blowout either way, but it does seem momentum is on Amine's side.
184: Ernest Battaglia vs Bobby Steveson
- Battaglia was thrown in to the lineup when an injury caused Abounader to take a redshirt year. Steveson is a 3-time state champ (one in Indiana and two in Minnesota), who was 14-4 as a redshirt and 2-2 at the CKLV. Battaglia fights hard, but this does have bonus point potential for Minnesota.
197: Jackson Striggow vs #2 Brett Pfarr
- Pfarr completed a very successful junior season when he took 3rd at the Big Tens and 3rd at the NCAA's. He then tore through the field at the CKLV with bonus points in every match. Striggow is a RS freshman with some good results and many more on the way, but this is a tall task.
285: Perry/Golobokov vs #6 Michael Kroells
- Kroells has entered the last two NCAA tournaments with the #9 seed and overachieved to All-American honors because Minnesota heavyweights like the podium. Michigan fans are missing the sight of Coon out there as neither true freshman Perry or RS freshman Golobokov have taken off this year yet. Kroells is not exactly known for his bonus point wins, but the dual may come down to it.