First Lineup Look: 2022-23 Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Insight

Head Coach: Brandon Eggum (seventh season)

Assistants: Luke Becker, Trevor Brandvold, Zach Sanders

End of 2022 NCAA Tournament: 11th

2022 NCAA Tournament record: 17-16

2022 NCAA Tournament Points: 48.5

End of the 2022 B10 tournament: 6th

Double record 2022: 4-6 (3-5 B10)

Returning National Qualifiers: 12 (Patrick McKee, Jake Gliva, Jake Bergeland, Marcos Polanco, Michael Blockhus, Brayton Lee, Cael Carlson, Andrew Sparks, Bailee O’Reilly, Isaiah Salazar, Michial Foy, Gable Steveson)

Returning All-Americans: 4 (Patrick McKee, Jake Bergeland, Brayton Lee, Gable Steveson)

Last NCAA champion: Gable Steveson (2022)

Highest NCAA team ranking: 1st (2001, 2002, 2007)

Highest NCAA team ranking under Eggum: 7th (2017, 2021)

Most winners under Eggum: 4 (2017, 2019)

Summary

Minnesota has as many as 12 returning national qualifiers headlined by Gable Steveson, who could return for his final season of eligibility. The Golden Gophers return 2022 All-Americans Patrick McKee (125) and Jake Bergeland (141) as well as 2021 All-American Brayton Lee (157) who was out last year with an early year-end injury.

Few teams have Minnesota’s overall balance and depth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean NCAA tournament points. Eggum and company went 4-6 in head-to-head last season with a 3-5 record in the B10 — the toughest wrestling conference in the nation. The Golden Gophers had great wins over Northwestern (31-9) and Nebraska (19-13) but fell to Oklahoma State (23-10), Iowa (22-10), Wisconsin (21-15), Purdue (18-14) and Ohio State (24-14). It will be interesting to see if some of the younger wrestlers can push the upper classes for their spots.

Minnesota’s planned starting roster for 2022-23

125: Patrick McKee, JR, (AA)

133: Aaron Nagao, SW

141: Jake Bergeland, SR, (AA)

149: Michael Blockhus, JR, (NQ)

157: Brayton Lee, JR (AA)

165: Andrew Sparks, SO (NQ)

174: Bailee O’Reilly, SR, (NQ)

184: Isaiah Salazar, SO (NQ)

197: Michial Foy, SR (NQ)

285: Gable Steveson, SR (NC, OG)

125: Patrick McKee, JR
2022 report: 26-9
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 6-2 (5th)

McKee should be fine if he loses early in a tournament. He placed third in 2021 after losing in the second round and he placed fifth this year after dropping his opener. That makes him 13-3 over two NCAA championships.

The Golden Gophers will be counting on him again this year to be a spark for the team. He can score valuable NCAA Tournament points and he’ll be the favorite in most games, although he has a tough task with the return of Spencer Lee from Iowa. Troy Spratley and Quincy Halverson could face off here, but a returning two-time All-American is a good bet to be the starter.

133: Aaron Nagao, SW
2022 results: 8-3

Nagao gets the nod only because he beat Jake Gliva in back-to-back matches at the U23 Freestyle Nationals this summer. And Nagao is actually better suited to folkstyle. It’s good news for Eggum since Gliva reached the 2022 NCAA Tournament, despite going 0-2 after a 13-15 season. Nagao made it to this year’s Southern Scuffle final, so Minnesota will be in good hands here. Jager Eisch could also struggle after an 8-6 freshman campaign.

141: Jake Bergeland, RS
2022 report: 23-9
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 4-2 (7th)

Bergeland returns for his COVID year after a breakout season where he was an All-American. It was Bergeland’s first year as a starter and he capitalized on it by providing Golden Gophers consistency and key wins. He’s had a few bad losses against the top of the weight, but a seventh-place finish should boost his confidence, especially since most of the top wrestlers are gone.

Vance Vombaur wore a red shirt last year, but he picked up a victory over Northern Iowa’s Kyle Biscoglia – a Big 12 runner-up at 133 and a national qualifier – before posting a freshman campaign 13- 3. Marcos Polanco was a national qualifier in 2021 with a 7-8 record and Tagen Jamison created a buzz after a 6-2 gray shirt year where he lost to Bergeland, 8-6, and lost a sudden game victory 6-4 against Iowa. Caleb Ratjen. This is the weight class to watch if you are a Minnesota wrestling fan.

149: Michael Blockhus, JR
2022 review: 18-15
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 1-2

Three-time national qualifier Michael Blockhus is back after being traded from northern Iowa after the 2020 season. Blockhus had one win at the nationals but was winless throughout the season, although he held national finalists Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell), Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) and Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) to decide. Drew Roberts is an U23 All-American and could be a contender after a 10-8 redshirt season, just like Blaine Brenner.

157: Brayton Lee, JR
2022 record: 17-2

Minnesota recovers Lee after losing him to injury in the final game of the season. Lee placed sixth at the NCAA Championships in 2021 after a 14-6 season. Prior to the injury, he had lost just one game this season and had wins over Kendall Coleman (Purdue), Will Lewan (Michigan), Peyton Robb (Nebraska), Kaleb Young (Iowa) and Jared Franek (NDSU). ) up to this point.

165: Andrew Sparks
2022 results: 4-3

It’s a roll of the dice here, but Sparks gets the go-ahead on 2022 national qualifier Cael Carlson, even though Carlson beat Sparks at the 2021 Bison Open. Sparks qualified for the nationals in 2021 as a than a true freshman and is still relatively unproven, but he showed glimpses of potential — especially in his first varsity win over Nebraska’s Peyton Robb. Don’t be surprised if Carlson is the starter with incoming freshman Hunter Lyden in pursuit.

174: Bailee O’Reilly, SR
2022 report: 25-11
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 0-2

Minnesota caught the injury bug when two tried-and-true wrestlers fell at critical points in the season. First it was Lee in the final duel, then it was O’Reilly who got injured in his quarterfinal match against Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola at the B10 Championships. O’Reilly still qualified for the NCAA but went 0-2. The Goodhue, Minnesota native is competitive in most games but didn’t pick up a win against top 10 opponents last season.

Don’t expect to see O’Reilly early in the season. Minnesota could deploy him late in the first half or early in the second half so he can be at full strength. Wisconsin transfer Jerad Krattinger (9-4 last season for Minnesota) and incoming rookie Devin Wasley will compete for the spot and one is expected to be the starter until O’Reilly returns.

184: Isaiah Salazar, SO
2022 report: 15-7
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 1-2

Salazar rode a four-game winning streak early and midway through the season, but alternated between wins and losses in the final half. He keeps most games close, and if he can undo a few draw losses, he has a chance of reaching the knockout stages this year, and with an outstanding performance, he could reach the podium. Sam Skillings is tough for the spot, but Salazar is the clear favorite right now.

197: Michial Foy, SR
2022 review: 16-14
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 0-2

It’s no surprise that Foy was part of the Greco U23 World Team this year. His father, also Michial, was a Greco Olympian in 1988 and 1992. Young Foy is on his last chance to reach the podium after a back-and-forth season similar to Salazar’s.

The native of Crete, Illinois lost both of his NCAA tournament matches, but they were to junior world freestyle champions Rocky Elam (Missouri) and Braxton Amos (Wisconsin). Junior Garrett Joles saw college action but he was not the starter at the end of the year. Rowan Morgan – son of the former Minnesota NCAA champion and assistant – will be there, as will Gabe Nagel who could go to 184 or 197.

285: Steveson Sprocket
2022 record: 18-0
2022 NCAA Tournament record: 5-0 (1st)

There are no guarantees, but signs point to Steveson returning at some point for his final year of eligibility. The 2020 Olympic gold medalist hasn’t lost a college game since a semifinal loss to Penn State’s Anthony Cassar in the 2019 NCAA Championship Semifinals on March 21.

Getting Gable back would be important for the Golden Gophers — especially since he scored 23 of Minnesota’s 48.5 points last season and because some consider him the greatest college heavyweight of all time. Steveson just turned 22, so it’s unclear what he could do for a call-up to one of the deepest heavyweight fields in history. He could be the first three-time NCAA champion in program history, which should add to his motivation. Keaton Kluever and Bennett Tabor will fight for the place until the possible return of Steveson.

Where will the Golden Gophers finish in the NCAA?

Assuming Steveson returns for his senior year, the Golden Gophers have a real shot at winning a trophy this year, awarded to the top four teams in the NCAA championships. Success depends on how well the supporting cast helps its superstar. Arizona State ranked fourth in 2022 with 66.5 points – and that’s a realistic total for next year’s Minnesota team. It will take McKee, Lee and Bergeland to get on the podium again, and it will take three or four more to earn multiple national championship wins.

Without Steveson, there’s a scenario where this team drops out of the top 15. It’s hard to replace more than 20 points from a wrestler, but Minnesota has proven they can pull it off with a balanced offense. Is there a team that can do it? The Golden Gophers could have as many as 12 returning national qualifiers, but most haven’t made a deep run in the tournament yet…yet.

This team is designed for year-end tournaments. Don’t expect Minnesota to have its best roster for every duel, which could result in more losses than wins in the ultra-competitive B10 conference. No matter who starts, this Minnesota team should be fun to watch — and the battle for college spots will be just as intriguing as the teams they face.


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