After starting the season 3-0 by winning three duals last Saturday at the Gopher Duals, No. 21 Minnesota hits the road for the first time this season for its second consecutive three-match weekend. This Sunday, the Gophers will take on No. 5 Lehigh, No. 12 NC State and No. 13 North Carolina at the 2015 Journeymen ASICS Northeast Duals in Troy, N.Y.
This year’s trip to western New York will mark the program’s return to the Northeast Duals after a nine-year absence. This year’s edition will be the third time Minnesota has competed in Northeast Duals, at which it has a 7-1 all-time record.
Minnesota’s trip to Troy creates an opportunity to challenge top-tier — and unfamiliar — programs. It has been a decade since the Gophers last faced any of the teams they will wrestle on Sunday. Minnesota has just two matches against all three combined in the past 25 years.
The day will begin with a morning dual against No. 13 North Carolina. Sunday’s contest will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. For their next match, the Gophers will square off against No. 5 Lehigh. The Gophers and Mountain Hawks have met three times previously, with Minnesota taking the last meeting, 24-13, at the 2005 National Duals. Lehigh’s lone win in the series came in the first match between the two back in the 1969-70 season. To close out its day, Minnesota will wrestle No. 12 NC State in the first dual between the two programs since the 1989 Virginia Duals, a match Minnesota won, 18-15. The two teams wrestled in only one other season (1987-88) but competed head-to-head in three separate duals that year, with Minnesota taking two of the three.
Between the four teams, as many as 21 ranked wrestlers will compete in Minnesota’s three duals on Sunday — four for the Gophers, four for the Tar Heels, five for the Wolfpack and eight for the Mountain Hawks. Three weight classes will potentially feature three or more ranked wrestlers through Minnesota’s three duals. At 184, unranked Chris Pfarr will see a trio of high-level opponents when he takes on No. 4 Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh), No. 17 Pete Renda (NC State) and No. 20 Alex Utley (North Carolina). Returning All-American Michael Kroells, ranked sixth in the country, will get a shot at two-time defending national champ, No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State), as well as No. 13 Doug Vollaro (Lehigh). The most stacked weight though, based on rankings, will be 141, where all four wrestlers are nationally ranked. No. 20 Tommy Thorn, wrestling his first career matches as a ranked competitor, will face a threesome of top-10 foes on Sunday when he stares down No. 3 Kevin Jack (NC State), No. 5 Evan Henderson (North Carolina) and No. 10 Randy Cruz (Lehigh).
While the Gophers have three duals under their belts this season, their opponents have just one between them. Lehigh defeated Bucknell 23-12 last Friday. For North Carolina, Minnesota will be its season-opener.
Five different Gophers made their career dual debuts at last weekend’s Gopher Duals and there’s a possibility all of them will return to the mat this weekend. Two of those grapplers, No. 17 Skyler Petry (125) and Thorn (141) went 3-0 and earned national rankings for the first time in their careers. At 165, Dylan Urbach went 2-1 including a major decision in his first-ever collegiate dual match. Miles Patton (149) and Jack Bass (157) will be looking for their first dual match victories this weekend. In addition to that group, Chris Pfarr (184) earned his first — and second — career dual match victories last weekend.
There are several ways for Gophers fan to follow the action from the Northeast Duals this Sunday. As always, Gopher Wrestling will provide regular, matside updates throughout every match of the three duals on Twitter. Fans with a FloPRO subscription can also stream the duals live on Florwrestling.org. Live stats will be available on TrackWrestling.com.
To stay up-to-date with everything happening around the program, regularly check on GopherSports.com and be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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