Gopher grapplers top pre-season polls

Given the weekly gridiron follies produced by the University of Minnesota football team, Gopher sports fans could use some positive news. Barring the unlikely announcement that Tim Brewster has resigned to star in

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, non-football information will have to suffice.

The Gopher wrestling team, trying to repeat as national champions, is ranked number one in three different pre-season polls. Coach J Robinson's squad received all twelve first-place votes in the USA Today survey. What's more, eight of the team's ten starters are ranked in the top ten nationally.

The team will likely be led by top-ranked 149-pounder Dustin Schlatter. The Massillon, Ohio native capped a dominant 2005-06 campaign by winning a national title as a freshman. Last year, however, his string of 65 consecutive victories came to a halt when he was upset in the national semifinals. Schlatter ended up settling for third place.

Other Gophers ranked in the USA Today poll: Jayson Ness, 125 pounds, 4th; Mack Reiter, 133 pounds, 3rd; Manny Rivera, 144 pounds, 6th; C.P. Schlatter, 157 pounds, 5th; Tyler Safratowich, 165 pounds, 7th; Gabe Dretsch, 174 pounds, 7th; Roger Kish, 184 pounds, 2nd.

The biggest question facing Robinson will be who fills the heavyweight void left by the departure of Cole Konrad. "King Cole" finished his NCAA career with 76 consecutive victories and two national titles. A pair of homegrown redshirt freshmen, Ben Berhow and Joe Nord, will compete for the spot.

Robinson says the emphasis will be on retaining the team crown, but also improving on last year's individual performances, noting that only Konrad won a national title. "They got what they wanted as a team last year," he says, "but they didn't get what they wanted as individuals."

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