EAST LANSING, Michigan -- Michigan State wrestling had No. 18 Minnesota on the ropes and the Spartans nearly pulled off the upset before the Gophers bounced back late and overtook MSU, 20-17, Friday night at Jenison Field House in the Spartans’ Big Ten home opener.
The Spartans won four bouts behind redshirt freshman Logan Griffin at 125, No. 12-ranked junior Javier Gasca at 141, senior Nick Trimble at 149 and freshman Drew Hughes at 165 for a 17-9 MSU advantage before Minnesota countered by winning four of the last five bouts, including the last three to overtake Michigan State and deny the upset bid.
“I think a little bit of youthfulness came out in the guys towards the end. They fought hard, and they’ve bought into everything we were telling them this week which was hand fighting and lasting an entire match,” MSU head coach Roger Chandler said. “I think in the last two matches our guys were probably respecting their opponent a little too much. In our sport, we need to just go out there and do what we do best.”
After dropping the opening bout at heavyweight, Griffin got the Spartans on the board in the second bout with a 9-3 decision at 125 over Minnesota’s Skyler Petry. Griffin earned his second victory in three duals, leveling his dual record at 2-2, while improving his overall mark to 8-5.
“You know, I can’t point to just one person,” Chandler said about which Spartan was most impressive Friday night. “ I think from top to bottom our guys wrestled all the way through. If there was one guy that I was really proud of the way he came out, it was Logan Griffin. He came out after we lost the first match and he got the team set to a different pace causing the guys to rally around him.”
Gasca jumped out early on Gannon Volk and went on to post an 11-1 major decision to improve to 13-2 on the season, winning 21 of his last 24 regular-season matches dating back to last season. It was also a successful return to the lineup after missing MSU’s dual vs. Drexel last weekend.
“Javier and Nick Trimble are our team leaders, but Javier got hurt pretty good last week. We weren’t sure if he was going to wrestle this week. He bought into this because of the team. He did a great job. He wrestled where he wanted to wrestle and he came out on top. He never put himself in a position where he could get injured again, and I’m very proud of how he mentally handled it all and how he physically performed,” Chandler said.
At 149, Trimble competed in his first official home varsity dual since 2015 after redshirting last season and had a triumphant return to the platform at Jenison Field House, also winning on a major decision, 12-4 over James Berg. With the win, Trimble improved to 4-2 in duals this season and 7-4 overall, winning for the fifth time in seven bouts.
Hughes continued his smashing Spartan debut, posting the only pin of the evening, pinning Brandon Kingsley at 4:51. It was Hughes’ team-leading seventh fall of the season as he improves to 13-2 overall and 4-1 in duals.
“I kind of started out slow but it was good to get the fall for the team points,” Hughes said. “I think our team wrestled very well. If we win one of those close matches and we win the dual. A lot of the wins we had were bonus-point wins which really helped out.”
Friday was Hughes’ first home dual as a Spartan and he particularly liked the home crowd.
“It was great, it was really exciting. Especially after we were in Nebraska last weekend and got to see how big of a crowd they had, and see that environment. It was good to be able to do that for our fans here,” Hughes said.
After the Spartans led 17-9, the Gophers got a pair of wins from their national-ranked duo of No. 16 Nick Wanzek at 174 and No. 2 Brett Pfarr at 197 to complete the comeback at 20-17.
“We set the expectation this week that we were going to go toe-to-toe with them. We weren’t going to back down in any technical situation, and overall I thought we did that. There were a few little letdowns in there, but we have a young team and I believe that these guys are buying into the process of competing for seven minutes and they’re starting to see the results,” Chandler said. “If you would have told me last Sunday after the Nebraska dual, that they would have competed the way they did tonight, I would have thought a little different. They bought into the process and stepped up to challenge tonight.”
Friday was the Spartans’ third match in their last four against a Top 25 team after last Sunday’s bouts with No. 7 Nebraska and No. 25 Princeton.
“We are very realistic about where we are as a program,” Chandler said. “We set expectations in the beginning of the year and in order to be where we want to be at the end of the year or future years, you have to commit to the process. The process is that we are going to train, commit to being great, and compete to be great. Overall, I feel the guys are buying into it. It will take time, these guys will have to develop, but as long as they step on the mat each time and try to get a little bit better, it’s going to be okay.”
Friday was MSU’s first action this season with only one match, as the Spartans’ other competitions have either been Opens or multiple duals in a day. The Spartans return to multiple-match days by heading to Reno, Nev., to compete in the 2016 Reno Tournament of Champions on Sunday, Dec. 18, before the Holiday break. MSU resumes action and opens the New Year at home hosting Iowa on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. at Jenison Field House.
“Nothing has changed in our focus moving forward,” Chandler said. “We have really been focusing on staying in the hand fight for seven minutes and competing for seven minutes. I always tell my guys, there’s a different between wrestling for seven minutes and competing for seven minutes. We need to compete, and I believe that will continue to show through this season.”
HWT: No. 6 Michael Kroells (MINN) dec. Jacob Cooper (MSU), 1-0
Neither wrestler could score a point in the opening period as the heavyweights clashed in the opening bout of the night. Kroells scored an escape in the early going of the second stanza for a 1-0 lead that he held through the end of the frame. In the third period, Cooper mounted a comeback, but Kroells thwarted the threat and held on for the 1-0 decision.
125: Logan Griffin (MSU) dec. Skyler Petry (MINN), 9-3
Griffin jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first with a reversal and held that lead after one period. Griffin stretched his lead to 6-2 after two periods, and tacked on a reversal early in the third for an 8-2 advantage. Petry got a point for an escape nearly partway through the final frame, but Griffin hung on for the 9-3 win, getting the extra point for riding time.
133: No. 17 Mitch McKee (MINN) dec. Austin Eicher (MSU), 9-3
McKee opened with a 6-0 lead just two minutes into the opening period, and held that advantage to the end of the frame. The Gopher added two on a reversal in the first part of the second stanza, and held an 8-0 lead after two. Eicher got on the board with an escape in the early going of the final period. The Spartan tallied two points on a reversal with almost a minute left to close to 8-3, but couldn’t get any closer and McKee added riding time point for the final 9-3 score.
141: No. 12 Javier Gasca (MSU) major dec. Gannon Volk (MINN), 11-1
Gasca got on the board first with a takedown before Volk got a point on an escape and Gasca added two more on a takedown for a 4-1 lead after one frame. The MSU wrestler added another two points on a takedown and near-fall and led 8-1 through two periods. After a point for an escape, Gasca tallied two points on a takedown for an 11-1 advantage. Gasca added the riding time for a 12-1 victory.
149: Nick Trimble (MSU) dec. James Berg (MINN), 12-4
Trimble opened a 4-1 lead in the first period on a pair of takedowns. The score stayed 4-1 through two periods. Trimble added two points on a reversal in the early going of the final frame and two more on a takedown. The Spartan got a near-fall and went on to win 12-4.
157: No. 12 Jake Short (MINN) dec. Austin Thompson (MSU), 4-2
Short got a takedown partway through the first frame for an early 2-0. Thompson cut the gap in half with an escape in the final minute of the opening period and the score stayed 2-1. Thompson evened the score at 2-2 with another escape. Short added a point with an escape of his own and tacked on a point for riding time and the 4-2 decision.
165: Drew Hughes (MSU) fall Brandon Kingsley (MINN), 4:51
Kingsley got two points in the early going on a takedown and 2-0 lead but Hughes leveled the score at 2-2 with a takedown of his own and the score remained knotted at two to the end of the first frame. Hughes controlled the action in the second stanza and after Kingsley shot in, Hughes countered with a cradle and pinned Kingsley at 4:51 for the first fall of the night.
174: No. 16 Nick Wanzek (MINN) major dec. Logan Ritchie (MSU), 14-3
Ritchie opened with a takedown before Wanzek scored three straight for a 3-2 lead through first frame. The Gopher added four points on a near-fall and two more for a 9-3 advantage through two. Wanzek added two more on a takedown for an 11-3 advantage in the early going of the final frame. Wanzek added another takedown and a reversal for the 14-3 major decision.
184: Bobby Steveson (MINN) dec. Shwan Shadaia (MSU), 8-5
Steveson jumped out to 6-2 lead with three takedowns. Shadaia closed to 6-3 with an escape in the final minute of the opening period. The Spartan added another escape in the opening moments of the second stanza to pull within, 6-4, but neither wrestler was able to score for the rest of the frame and it was 6-4 entering third period. Steveson added a point on an escape in the opening moments yet Shadaia couldn’t get any closer until the final seconds with an escape, but Steveson added the riding time points and the 8-5 win.
197: No. 2 Brett Pfarr (MINN) maj. dec. Matt Okaiye (MSU), 16-5
Pfarr opened a 4-1 lead in the first frame, and extended the lead to 7-1 with an escape and a takedown. Okaiye got a point with an escape, but Pfarr tacked on two more points with another takedown and a 9-2 gap. The Gopher added one more point on an escape at the end of the period and a 10-2 lead and tacked on a couple takedowns and won the bout on a 16-5 major decision to complete the comeback for the Gophers.
Friday, Dec. 9 • Minnesota Dual • East Lansing, Mich.
No. 18 Minnesota 20, Michigan State 17
125: Logan Griffin (MSU) dec. Skyler Petry (MINN), 9-3; Tied, 3-3
133: No. 17 Mitch McKee (MINN) dec. Austin Eicher (MSU), 9-3; MINN leads, 6-3
141: No. 12 Javier Gasca (MSU) major dec. Gannon Volk (MINN), 11-1; MSU leads, 7-6
149: Nick Trimble (MSU) major dec. James Berg (MINN), 12-4; MSU leads, 11-6
157: No. 12 Jake Short (MINN) dec. Austin Thompson (MSU), 4-2; MSU leads, 11-9
165: Drew Hughes (MSU) fall Brandon Kingsley (MINN), 4:51; MSU leads, 17-9
174: No. 16 Nick Wanzek (MINN) major dec. Logan Ritchie (MSU), 14-3; MSU leads, 17-13
184: Bobby Steveson (MINN) dec. Shwan Shadaia (MSU), 8-5; MSU leads, 17-16
197: No. 2 Brett Pfarr (MINN) maj. dec. Matt Okaiye (MSU), 16-5; MINN wins match, 20-17
HWT: No. 6 Michael Kroells (MINN) dec. Jacob Cooper (MSU), 1-0; MINN leads 3-0