Gophers Take Border Battle over Wisconsin
A walk-off win at 174 pounds for Chris Pfarr sealed the fifth straight win for Minnesota in its long-time rivalry with its neighbors to the east, and eighth in the last nine meetings
Heading to the final match of Sunday’s Border Battle dual, a 174-pound bout between familiar foes, Wisconsin had the momentum and the odds in its favor. The Badgers had won three straight matches to erase a nine-point deficit and tie the dual. That final pairing – Chris Pfarr and No. 20 Ryan Christensen – had twice wrestled last season and both matches had gone Christensen’s way. Wisconsin appeared poised to snap Minnesota’s four-match winning streak in the series. Then, in a matter of seven minutes, the home crowd at the Sports Pavilion rose in elation and showered an unlikely hero in cheers and applause.
Pfarr, who finished 9-21 last season, gave up the first takedown to Christensen, but did not allow his opponent another. Pfarr scored three of his own, each one driving the volume inside the Pav to a higher level. His final points, scored on a takedown in the closing seconds, sealed a 7-4 win in his match and an 18-15 victory for the Gophers.
“I actually didn’t know the score of the dual. I knew it was close. Our coaches always say it doesn’t matter what the score is, you have to go out there and do you job,” said Pfarr. The crowd gave him a sense that his match was critical. “The emotion (in the arena), it was just huge. The crowd was into every second of the match. It was phenomenal.”
“I thought Chris did a great job at the end for us,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “Giving up the first takedown, that’s going to happen in Big Ten matches. He stayed focus. Chris is a guy who is very well-conditioned and physical. The deeper he is into his match, the better it is for us. To stay focused and to keep pushing forward, that’s how you win. That’s how you contribute to the team.”
Pfarr was given the opportunity to contribute to the team in such a significant way thanks to four earlier victories for Minnesota, the most notable coming at 133 pounds, where No. 16 Mitch McKee pinned Eli Stickley, scoring the three bonus points that would be the difference in the final score.
McKee set up his early pin with a strong shot in the opening seconds of his bout, getting both the leg and the head to cradle up Stickley as the two went to the mat. With more than two minutes remaining in the period, McKee continued to work his weight over Stickley’s shoulders and, after nearly a minute of improving his position, pressed Stickley’s shoulders to the mat for the pin and six big points for the Gophers.
Not only was the pin McKee’s first ever in dual competition, it was the first time in his rookie season McKee has scored bonus points in a dual for his hometown team. Personal milestones aside, the fall came at an important moment in the dual. The score was tied at six and 133 would be the last contest before the halftime intermission. The win gave the Gophers a 12-6 advantage and the match’s momentum at that moment.
“Getting the pin is one of those things you look to do to get the momentum on your side and keep it into the break,” said McKee. “A win like that really gets the crowd behind you and keeps the team excited and ready to go.”
“McKee’s dangerous. He’s very explosive. He can score a lot of points and put them up there quickly. His win, and to get that fall, was huge for momentum,” said Eggum.
Minnesota also got victories from No. 2 Brett Pfarr at 197 pounds, No. 6 Ethan Lizak at 125, and No. 13 Tommy Thorn at 141 on Sunday afternoon.
For Pfarr, the win was yet another ranked victory, his team-high seventh already this season. Dating back to last season when he bumped up from 184 to 197 pounds, Pfarr is now 22-5 against ranked competitors at his current weight class. He has not lost to a wrestler ranked outside of the top-four in the country during that stretch.
Lizak and Thorn’s wins were the first either has earned in a dual meet this season.
“There were a lot of great matches today. We knew coming in that there would be some closes matches, some ups and downs for both teams. You always want to win the close ones. Today, we got a really nice win and that’s always exciting, but we have to keep getting better, and we will,” said Eggum.
Now 4-2 (3-1). the Gophers continue their Big Ten season on Friday, when they will wrap up a three-dual homestand against Nebraska. Friday night is Alumni Night for the program and will include a recognition of the 2007 National Championship team, recognizing the 10-year anniversary of that title. Tickets for the dual are still available at MyGopherSports.com.
#12 Minnesota 18 #21 Wisconsin 15
184 Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin) dec. Jordon Rothers (Minnesota) 7-2
197 #2 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) dec. #13 Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) 11-5
Hwt #2 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) dec. #8 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) 3-2
125 #6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) dec. #20 Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin) 2-0
133 #16 Mitch McKee (Minnesota) fall Eli Stickley (Wisconsin) 1:21
141 #13 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) dec. #15 Cole Martin (Wisconsin) 8-3
149 Andrew Crone (Wisconsin) maj. dec. Carson Brolsma (Minnesota) 13-3
157 TJ Ruschell (Wisconsin) dec. #9 Jake Short (Minnesota) 5-4
-1 pt team deduction on Wisconsin bench
165 #3 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. #14 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) 7-4
174 Chris Pfarr (Minnesota) dec. #20 Ryan Christensen (Wisconsin) 7-4
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