Four matches into Sunday's dual between No. 17 Minnesota and Purdue, both the momentum and the scoreboard had swung completely into the Boilermakers' favor. The visitors had won three consecutive matches - all with bonus points - and led 15-3 heading to 197 pounds. A major decision by No. 4 Brett Pfarr gave the home crowd and the Gophers a bit of life going into halftime, a spark that caught and turned to a roaring fire when Ben Morgan picked up a pin at 133 pounds in his career debut Those two wins were key in a five-match winning streak that ultimately helped the Gophers down the Boilers, 23-18.
"[Today's result] was great. I think it was a great statement to the guys, being down and coming back. That's what athletics is about," said head coach J Robinson. "I told the guys at halftime, tough periods don't make character, what they do is reveal it. I think those five guys came out and did what they had to do to win. That's what Minnesota wrestling is about, finding a way to win."
Though Pfarr may have started the rally for the Gophers, Morgan's pin was undoubtedly the showstopper, igniting the crowd of 3,136 in a towering cheer. His match with Luke Welch was scoreless midway through the first period when a single-leg shot appeared like it would yield a takedown for Welch. Along the edge of the mat, Morgan went to his own back and kicked his opponent over the top, flipping Welch to his back and earning the fall at 1:29.
While Morgan's pin did something special for the team by finishing the comeback and putting Minnesota on top for the first time since the night's opening match, it also meant something very special for him on a personal level.
"My family, my dad and uncle, both wrestled here in college and both coached after so I've been coming to these meets since I was a little kid," said Morgan. "Getting the pin and getting our team back, it's really a dream come true … my life's really come up to this moment, to this year. It couldn't be a better feeling."
Morgan's win was the third in a run of five straight for Minnesota. That rally began with Pfarr setting a new career-high in points scored in his 25-11 major decision over Drake Stein heading into the intermission. Pfarr had set his previous high (23) in last Sunday's contest against Rutgers.
Following the intermission, No. 9 Michael Kroells added another major decision to the Gophers' score with a 10-2 victory over Tyler Kral. The win was the second major for Kroells' in his last four Big Ten duals and pulled the Gophers to within four points heading to the other end of the weight spectrum at 125 pounds.
After a one-match absence from the starting lineup, Steve Polakowski returned for the Gophers and picked up his second conference win of the season, a 9-3 decision over Ben Thorton. That win inched Minnesota to within one, 15-14, heading into Morgan's match at 133 pounds.
With the applause and cheers from Morgan's pin still reverberating through the Sports Pavilion, No. 8 Tommy Thorn clinched the dual for Minnesota with an 8-4 decision over Danny Sabatello. Not only was the match the fifth straight win for the Gophers, it capped a run of 20 consecutive team points that flipped a 15-3 gap into a 23-15 lead and an assured victory going into the night's final contest.
While the win was exactly what Minnesota had hoped to produce on Sunday afternoon, the dual did not begin as the Gophers planned. After a 5-4 decision for Brandon Kingsley at 157 pounds, a victory decided by the riding time point, Minnesota grapplers fell in three consecutive matches. Brad Dolezal, wrestling up a weight in his season debut, lost 11-0 to No. 7 Chad Welch at 165. Nick Wanzek fell to Jacob Morissey 18-2 at 174 before Will Balow was pinned at 184 pounds in his career debut. Those three wins accounted for all of Purdue's points until an overtime victory for Alex Griffin over No. 9 Jake Short in the afternoon's final match.
Minnesota will now wrap up its Big Ten season with four road duals over the next three weekends, beginning this Friday in Iowa City when Minnesota takes on No. 2 Iowa in college wrestling's greatest rivalry. That match will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network beginning at 8 p.m. Central.
157: Brandon Kingsley (Minnesota) dec. Doug Welch (Purdue) 5-4
165: No. 7 Chad Welch (Purdue) maj. dec. Brad Dolezal (Minnesota) 11-0
174: Jacob Morrissey (Purdue) tech. fall Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) 18-2 (5:00)
184: Tanner Lynde (Purdue) pin Will Balow (Minnesota) 2:29
197: No. 4 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) maj. dec. Drake Stein (Purdue) 25-11
285: No. 9 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) maj. dec. Tyler Kral (Purdue) 10-2
125: Steve Polakowski (Minnesota) dec. Ben Thornton (Purdue) 9-3
133: Ben Morgan (Minnesota) pin Luke Welch (Purdue) 1:29
141: No. 8 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) dec. Danny Sabatello (Purdue) 8-4
149: Alex Griffin (Purdue) dec. No. 9 Jake Short (Minnesota) 4-2 (SV1)