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|Konrad, Gophers are Golden again at the National Duals|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Missouri started juggling its lineup and Minnesota heavyweight Cole Konrad immediately started crunching the numbers and doing the math.
He was trying to figure out exactly what kind of decision he might need to win by in the final match of the National Duals to give his second-ranked Golden Gophers the team title.
By the time the dual reached the final bout, Konrad's mission was clear. And the math was simple. The reigning NCAA champion's team trailed No. 1 Missouri by two and all he needed was a win to give Minnesota the title.
Konrad did much more than that, delivering a dramatic match-winning pin for the second straight season as his first-period fall over Tyler Perry gave Minnesota a 20-16 win over Missouri before 7,625 fans at the UNI-Dome.
"It always feels good to win," Minnesota coach J Robinson said. "We've had a good training cycle and our guys were focused on winning this tournament. We've had a lot of adversity and battled through it. We knew it would be a hard-fought match. You've got to win the close ones against a good team like Missouri."
Konrad pinned two-time NCAA champion Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State to give the Gophers the team title at the 2006 National Duals.
"I love these big matches like this - it's my ideal situation," Konrad said. "We figured it might come down to who might score more bonus points. In my personal opinion, we are the top team in the country and I think we showed that."
Looking for additional bonus points after Michael Chandler fell 6-5 to Minnesota's C.P. Schlatter at 157, the Tigers decided to bump All-American Matt Pell up to 174 and Hodge Trophy winner Ben Askren up to 184.
But Pell, Ben Askren and Max Askren (197) were unable to score the bonus points Missouri was looking for. Missouri led just 16-14 entering the final bout where Konrad was heavily favored. Konrad scored the fall at the 2:13 mark to win it for the Gophers.
"I can't fault the effort of the kids," Missouri coach Brian Smith said. "They were going after it and going for the bonus points to do it for the team. We knew we had to get bonus points with a true freshman at heavyweight for us. Minnesota is a tough team, hard-nosed and they are in your face the whole time.
"Our goal is to win and I know our kids will be down. Our kids competed hard and if we keep competing this hard in March then good things are going to happen."
Each team won five matches, but Missouri only scored bonus points at 133 where Tyler McCormick won by major decision. Minnesota gained a major at 125 when Jayson Ness won 11-0 over John Olinowski and then again when Konrad won by fall.
Ben Askren extended his winning streak to 72 matches, but it wasn't easy against the burly and powerful Roger Kish of Minnesota. Kish is a returning NCAA runner-up at 184. The bump up to 184 was tough for Askren, who actually certified at 165 this season. Askren posted a 5-4 win over Kish.
"We want to be the best," Askren said. "When you look at what happened today and look at the big picture, this is a minor setback and we'll come back from it."
Minnesota will become even stronger when All-American Mack Reiter (133) returns in a few weeks. Reiter is scheduled to be back sometime around Feb. 1 after suffering a knee injury before the season. The Gophers were the preseason No. 1 team before losing Reiter.
"We're going to kick it up another notch when Reiter comes back," Konrad said. "He's a great wrestler and he will score a lot of points for us."
C.P. Schlatter trailed Chandler 3-0 before scoring three third-period takedowns in a 6-5 win. Schlatter returned to the lineup this weekend after being out with a knee injury.
"C.P. has been working real hard," Robinson said. "He's starting to come into his own and getting more confident. He pushed the pace in the third period and it paid off for him."
Robinson said winning this event was important, but he hasn't lost sight of what counts most. Minnesota finished second in the NCAA tournament last year after winning the National Duals.
"We need to keep this in perspective," Robinson said. "We were at this point last year, but we didn't get to where we wanted to be at the end of the season. That's what we'll tell our team, 'Yeah, this is great and we'll enjoy it. But we have to think about we need to do the rest of the season.'"
The Division II finals had an even more dramatic finish. Second-ranked Nebraska-Kearney trailed two-time defending National Duals champion and No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha 19-14 entering the final match, but top-ranked Tervel Dlagnev countered a throw attempt and pinned Tony Lewis with 13 seconds left in the first period. UNK beat UNO for the second time in the finals of the National Duals. The other time was in 2003.
The remaining team champions included Augsburg (Division III), Lindenwood (NAIA), Iowa Central (Junior College) and the University of the Cumberlands (Women).
Northwestern's Jake Herbert (184) was named Outstanding Wrestler in Division I.
Missouri posted an impressive 27-15 win over reigning four-time NCAA tournament champion and No. 4 Oklahoma State in the semifinals. The win was keyed by No. 7 Tyler McCormick's 2-1 win over No. 3 Coleman Scott at 133. Missouri's Josh Wagner pinned B.J. Jackson with one second left in their 149-pound match.
Minnesota downed No. 6 Iowa State 24-11 in the other semifinal. Minnesota's eighth-ranked C.P. Schlatter edged No. 2 Trent Paulson 5-4 at 157.