Can Minnesota survive without NCAA and Olympic Champion Gable Steveson?
The short answer is, yes. In fact, Intermat has a Gopher ranked at every weight. . . except for heavyweight. So let's check out the 2023 team.
Who's Returning & Leaving?
The only 2022 starter leaving Minnesota is Gable Steveson. Granted, it is a monumental loss of 19 NCAA placement points and a guaranteed dual meet victory at heavyweight.
But on the bright side, every other starter is back! Two All-Americans from last season, Pat McKee (125) and Jake Bergeland (141) are top-five threats at their weights. Michael Blockhus is another threat, after qualifying for Nationals three times.
Injured guys like NCAA placer Brayton Lee (157) and qualifier Andrew Sparks (165) are also returning.
Contended Lineup Spots
Don't expect Andrew Sparks to be a "shoe-in" starter at 165. He may be a 2021 NCAA qualifier who put up a battle against Alex Marinelli, but Cael Carlson filled in nicely last year and qualified for NCAAs himself.
Another contended weight is 133 lbs. NCAA qualifier Jake Gliva is last year's starter, but a hungry freshman is on the prowl. 2X California State Champ Aaron Nagao is looking for his shot to shine.
Who Fills Gable's Shoes?
So who will fill Gable's shoes at heavyweight? (Hopefully one of them grabbed them off the finals mat.) The two options are Keaton Kluever or Bennett Tabor. Kluever has mostly wrestled opens throughout his career.
Meanwhile, 3x Minnesota State Champ Tabor is a redshirt freshman bumping up from 197 lbs. He was the #22 recruit in the class of 2021 by MatScouts.
2023 Lineup Preview
Here's how I expect the team to look in 2023:
- 125. Pat McKee (5th)
- 133. Jake Gliva / Aaron Nagao
- 141. Jake Bergeland (7th)
- 149. Michael Blockhus
- 157. Brayton Lee
- 165. Andrew Sparks / Cael Carlson
- 174. Bailee O'Reilly
- 184. Isaiah Salazar
- 197. Michial Foy
- 285. Keaton Kluever / Bennett Tabor
What to Expect
In the Big Ten, I think they can closely compete in duals against Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Though don't expect them to beat Penn State or Iowa.
Overall, anticipate Minnesota having a strong year in the post-Gable era. Potentially, they could even crown another NCAA Champ (Brayton Lee?). What do you think?
Josiah Hritsko Wrestling Fan & Founder of Fanco Wrestling
Wrestling Fan & Founder of Fanco Wrestling
P.S. Thanks to Todd Ericksrud for suggesting this preview.
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