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Wrestling: Northwestern upsets Minnesota for first conference win

Twenty-seven years later, the Wildcats finally beat the Gophers at home to continue their dominant season.

Ryan Kuttler

No. 15 Northwestern (2-0, 1-0 B1G) is off to a strong start in Big Ten play, taking down No. 9 Minnesota (7-1, 0-1 B1G). The 18-11 win makes for the first defeat over the Gophers since 2018 and the first home victory over them since 1996.

Both the ‘Cats and the Gophers have seen a lot of early-season success. Northwestern beat Virginia in the season opener, placed 10th at the Cliff Keen Invitational and took home its first Midlands title. Minnesota was undefeated, having garnered wins against three nationally ranked teams, before suffering its first loss of the season in Evanston.

NU won six of the nine matches of the day, including victories for Lucas Davison, Yahya Thomas and Trevor Chumbley, who all took home individual titles in the Ken Kraft Midlands tournament.

The day began with excitement in the 165-pound class, where Maxx Mayfield faced off against No. 22 Andrew Sparks. They were tied at four towards the end of the third period, but with just one second remaining, Mayfield managed a two-point takedown for a NU victory.

After three straight losses, Davison put the ‘Cats back on track and began a series of five straight victories. The No. 4 All-American easily won his bout at 285-pounds with a 4-1 decision.

No. 11 Chris Cannon seemed to be running into trouble against No. 22 Aaron Nagao. The NU wrestler was trailing by three points toward the end of the second period before emerging with power in the remaining seconds. Cannon’s takedown in the remaining six seconds gave him a 6-3 advantage and changed the pace of the bout. He consequently went on to win the 133-pound match 7-4 and helped Northwestern narrow Minnesota’s lead to 11-9.

At 141 pounds, the momentum from Cannon’s win carried over and fueled Frankie Tal—Shahar to an edgy victory over No. 10 Jakob Bergeland. The No. 15 redshirt sophomore’s takedown in the first period was crucial, as it proved to be the difference in the 2-1 decision that gave the ‘Cats a 12-11 lead over the Gophers.

No. 5 Thomas was challenged by No. 15 Michael Blockhus. The 149-pound dual winner was not determined until the second period of overtime, where a rideout delivered Thomas a 2-1 triumph. The All-American has been stellar this season, even being named the Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Week following his successful performance at the Midlands.

Chumbley sealed the win for Northwestern at 157-pounds, bringing the fifth consecutive victory in the 18-11 win.

Currently ranked at No. 11, the Wildcats have established themselves as the ultimate competitors. Even without Michael DeAugustino on the roster, Northwestern is capable of claiming matches across a variety of weight divisions, and continued success should certainly be the expectation for this team.

Northwestern will travel to Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 13 for what could be a very telling match against No. 2 Iowa.