Win or lose, Spartan wrestlers show growth
Freshman 141-pounder Brian Gibbs tries to push Wolverine Kellen Russell away. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines 26-9 at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon.
The MSU wrestling team’s Sunday afternoon dual at No. 11 Michigan left something to be desired, but the Spartans might have gotten more out of the trip than just a 26-9 rout at the hands of their in-state rival.
For instance, freshman 141-pounder Brian Gibbs has been getting valuable experience during his first year with the team.
On Friday night, Gibbs dropped a 13-3 major decision to No. 5 Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska. On Sunday, he lost a 10-0 decision to the top wrestler in his weight class, No. 1 Kellen Russell. However, despite falling behind 8-0 in the first period, Gibbs only allowed Russell to score one more point — on an escape — during the match, with the final point coming from the riding time advantage.
“Part of the experience is wrestling the guys who are really good,” head coach Tom Minkel said of the freshman’s grueling weekend.
“And I think Gibbs came out of that with the understanding that he’s got a future. He was outmatched, but not completely. He kind of held his own for stretches in the match, so I think it can’t be anything but positive for him.”
Gibbs said he learned much from the experience and thinks if he were to get another shot at Russell, the score might be much closer.
“I feel like I really have nobody that’s going to be better than that the rest of the season,” he said. “I just have to keep pushing it. I know no match is going to be out of the way.”
If there’s one person the Spartans can count on for a win, it’s No. 12 senior 157-pounder Anthony Jones Jr.
Jones missed all of last season when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder, but has wasted no time getting back in wrestling form. This season, Jones has amassed a 16-6 overall record and four major decisions. Three of those losses came against ranked opponents, and all but two of them were lost by three points or fewer.
“I just need to keep working on simple techniques,” Jones said. “Top (position) is one of the things I want to work most with and just grind it out every match.”
Minkel said he has seen a lot of growth from Jones since his freshman year. He said when Jones first came to MSU, he couldn’t get the wrestler to say more than a few words.
“But as he’s been in college, he’s matured, and he’s got a lot of confidence, and he’s one of our more vocal guys in the locker room,” Minkel said. “He’s very focused on what his goals are, and he’s a heck of an athlete. I think the sky is the limit for him.”
The spotlight will be on Jones once again this weekend when he likely will face No. 20 Josh Demas of Ohio State in what will be his final dual at Jenison Field House.