Saturday, January 23, 2021

Michigan State wrestling comeback bid falls short to Minnesota, 25-10

January 18, 2020
Redshirt junior Christian Rebottaro faces off with an opponent during the meet against Minnesota Jan. 17, 2020 at Jenison Fieldhouse. The Spartans fell to the Golden Gophers, 25-10.
Redshirt junior Christian Rebottaro faces off with an opponent during the meet against Minnesota Jan. 17, 2020 at Jenison Fieldhouse. The Spartans fell to the Golden Gophers, 25-10. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Michigan State wrestling (4-5) could not overcome a No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gopher (7-3) early 9-0 advantage in their third loss of the Big Ten season, losing 25-10. 

The first three matches were an onslaught, beginning with a shocking loss in the 157-pound matchup as MSU’s season wins leader Jake Tucker (18-5) losing to Minnesota sophomore Ryan Thomas (8-4). Tied going into the final 30 seconds of the third period, Tucker was taken down in a scrappy effort that could have went either way, but Thomas prevailed, winning the match on a 5-2 decision. 

MSU coach Roger Chandler said he understands that his wins leader has a ton of potential and sees a few things he needs to do to reach his goals. 

"Jake Tucker in order to achieve his goals ... he needs to be able to attack and look to score points all the time,” Chandler said. “You can’t have any setbacks or letdowns, even when you doesn’t feel your best, you have to be able to work through those moments. That's what champions do.” 

The domination continued into the next two weight classes as Spartan junior Drew Hughes came up short on the behalf of a Bailee O’Reilly takedown to secure a win, pushing the lead to 6-0 for the Golden Gophers. 

In the 174-pound matchup, redshirt freshman Layne Malczewski put up quite a fight against Devin Skatzka, only trailing by 5-4 at one point, but the redshirt senior took control, securing his 100th career victory for the Gophers. 

However, Spartan redshirt sophomore Cameron Caffey may have had the match of his career on Friday night against Minnesota's Owen Webster. Webster took an early 2-0 advantage on a takedown in the first period.  

Then Caffey took control. 

Caffey was able to get a quick takedown of his own, giving him a 3-2 advantage. Caffey quickly notched up six more points for the 9-4 win to give the Spartans hope in the matchup. 

“Cam Caffey, he did exactly what we asked our team to do," Chandler said. "That was to dictate pace and wrestle in the positions he wanted to be in, and he did that tonight. And he beat a really good wrestler.” 

This would be short-lived however, as quickly in the first period of the 197-pound matchup, Minnesota’s Hunter Ritter was able to secure a fall over Nick May, to create what seemed to be an insurmountable lead against the Spartans, as they led 15-3. 

However, in the second half of matchups, Christian Rebottaro started off strong in the heavyweight class, winning on a 6-2 decision on the back of a takedown toward the end of the third period, giving the Spartans some momentum. 

MSU senior Garrett Pepple rose to the occasion in his match, winning in dominating fashion, 11-0, to bring the Spartans back within nine with two matches remaining. 

“Great mindset, he went in to dominate and that’s exactly what he did,” Chandler said.

However, Minnesota’s McKee brothers (Patrick and Mitch) were not going to allow a Spartan comeback bid. 

In the 125-pound matchup, Minnesota’s Patrick McKee won against Logan Griffin in dominating fashion, 10-2. Then In the 141-pound class, older brother Mitch McKee was involved in a heavily contested match with MSU junior Matt Santos. Early in the first, Santos was able to secure a takedown to make it 2-2 early.  

However, McKee was ready to take over as he put on nine straight points in the match to end the Spartans' comeback bid. 

Michigan State has a short rest before their matchup against the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday afternoon, where Chandler is looking for the Spartans to keep getting better. 

“I want all 10 guys to compete to their best ability,” said Chandler. “Reset button, we look ourselves in the mirror, 'what can we do different from tonight that we can be better with on Sunday,' I asked our team. I want to see the best version of themselves come Sunday.”


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