No. 1 Minnesota Begins Dual Season This Weekend
The Gophers visit Air Force and Wyoming this Saturday for a pair of dual meets.
Coming off a seven-title performance at last weekend’s Bison Open, No. 1 Minnesota begins its dual season this Saturday when the Gophers visit the Air Force Academy at 11 a.m. CT and then take on Wyoming at 6:30 p.m. CT.
The morning dual will be the sixth all-time meeting between the Gophers and the Falcons. Minnesota has won all five previous duals, most recently defeating Air Force 41-3 during the 2008-09 season at the Lone Star Duals in Dallas. The Falcons, coming off an 11-6 season, are led by new head coach Sam Barber, who took over the program last spring. Barber has connections to wrestling in Minnesota. He previously coached at Division III Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he oversaw the Auggies’ 2007 Division III National Championship team.
Looking at the probable starters for Air Force, two will enter the meet ranked nationally. At 125, Sam Brancale will take on No. 9 Josh Martinez, Jr. Martinez has yet to wrestle a match this season, and there’s a chance freshman Drew Romero may wrestle in his place. At 165, redshirt freshman Nick Wanzek will be tested in his first career dual match as he takes on No. 15 Jesse Stafford, a senior who went 18-9 with six falls last season.
Tomorrow night, the Gophers will take on Wyoming for the seventh time in school history. After losing the first meeting between the schools back in 1953-54, Minnesota has won the last five in the series, including a 41-5 win over the Cowboys last November at the Sports Pavilion. That loss was part of a 1-6 start last season for Wyoming. The team rebounded from those early struggles to finish the season 6-6.
Wyoming has a lineup similar to Minnesota’s in that it boasts a mixture of experience and youth and a collection of ranked wrestlers. Four Cowboys enter Saturday nationally ranked, and either seven or eight wrestlers who competed in last year’s dual will be in the lineup again, depending on if Leland Pfeifer starts at heavyweight. No. 8 Tyler Cox will rematch against Sam Brancale at 125, a matchup Cox won last season to score Wyoming’s only points of the meet. The only other anticipated rematch is at 184, where Brett Pfarr will look to back up a major decision (10-1) he scored over then-No. 16 Benjamin Stroh. This year, both wrestlers will enter the match ranked – Pfarr at No. 14 and Stroh at No. 15. In an interesting twist, Wyoming’s Cole Mendenhall will take on No. 3 Nick Dardanes at 141. At last season’s meet, the 141 match pitted Mendenhall against Nick’s twin brother, Chris (a match Chris won by major decision, 13-4).
This will be the third time Minnesota has made the trip to the Air Force Academy, but the first since the 1981-82 season, a 47-4 victory for the Maroon and Gold. The only previous time the Gophers visited Laramie, Wyo., was in the 1994-95 season, when the Gophers defeated the Cowboys 30-12.
Minnesota last opened its dual season on the road in 2011-12, when the team headed east to take on Cornell. That was also the last season which Minnesota began with consecutive road duals, as the team headed to Penn State two days later. The Gophers split that trip en route to a 14-3 season and a second place finish at the NCAA Championships.
There are several ways for fans to follow the action on Saturday. Both events will be streamed at Flowrestling.com (Air Force meet link; Wyoming meet link). Viewing these live streams requires a FloPRO subscription. Of course, updates from throughout both meets will be provided on the Gopher Wrestling Twitter feed, with a recap of the day’s events tomorrow night on GopherSports.com.
Minnesota Match Notes (AFA)
Air Force Match Notes
Minnesota Match Notes (Wyo.)
Wyoming Match Notes
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