Battered, bruised grapplers set to host 5th ranked Gophers

Darrin Cline

With mediocre performances at the Midlands and National duals behind them, the ISU wrestling team will look to get back on track when they host the fifth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday.

The Cyclones claimed eighth at both of their winter break events, with senior Jon Reader again leading the way. The newly-minted No. 1 ranked wrestler at 174 pounds, Reader claimed the only individual title for the Cyclones at the Midlands and stayed undefeated throughout the National Duals.

Reader will welcome one of his stiffest challenges of the season when he faces eighth-ranked Scott Glasser. Glasser is one of seven Golden Golpher wrestlers ranked in the most recent standings. All seven grapplers have risen to the top 10, with Mike Thorn leading the way as No. 2 in the nation at 141 pounds.

Thorn’s opponent in the dual is still to be determined, as a highly anticipated match with Chris Drouin is questionable due to injury. Drouin showed strong improvement in the past month, garnering fourth at the Midlands before breaking a finger during the National Duals.

Drouin is only one of several ISU wrestlers questionable for the dual. Nationally ranked 197-pound Jerome Ward is also working his way back from knee surgery, which limited him to only one match at the National Duals.

Phil Hawes has stepped up in Ward’s absence and is likely to fill the role again if Ward is unable to go. Max Mayfield has also started making varsity appearances at 149 pounds, taking the spot from Nate Carr Jr.

Between injuries and weight management issues, the Cyclone wrestling team has been forced to dig deep into the roster and put new faces in the lineup. With the mid-season grind picking up pace, the coaches have utilized more of their available athletes in order to give the battered lineup a chance to rest and recoup.

However, with legendary coach J Robinson at the helm, the Golden Gophers can be expected to bring their usual fire and intensity, according to the polls. Minnesota is the odds on favorite, but the Cyclones have had their number. The Gophers last won the annual dual during the 2006-2007 season, 19-13.

2011 has been an up and down year for the Cyclone wrestling team thus far. With a myriad of roster questions and a 2-3 dual record, including a victory over top-10 ranked American University, the team has both positives and negatives to draw from. 

The battle tested team will have a chance to upset one of the premier programs in the nation. Sunday afternoon’s dual will kick off a series of home meets that aim to give the Cyclones an advantage in the friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum.