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|No. 1 Minnesota to face No. 2 Oklahoma State, plus Oklahoma against Hofstra, at ESPNU Double Sport Invitational in Oklahoma City, Feb. 12|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network and ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the nation's largest producer and distributor of collegiate sports programming, along with Double Sport Apparel and the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, will present the first-ever ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational, which will be held at the Ford Center (Oklahoma City, Okla.) on Sunday, Feb. 12.
This competition will feature four of the nation's top wrestling teams, including No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 20 Hofstra.
The matches will be televised live on ESPNU starting at 1 p.m. ET.
At 1 p.m., the Oklahoma Sooners will meet the Pride of Hofstra, followed by a match-up between 2005 NCAA National Wrestling Champion Oklahoma State, currently ranked No. 2 against the No. 1 Golden Gophers of Minnesota.
The Minnesota vs. Oklahoma State dual will be a rematch of the finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa, won by Minnesota, 21-14. The Cowboys entered that dual meet ranked No. 1 in the nation, and Minnesota has held the top spot ever since.
"If we want to reclaim the top spot going into the end of the year, this is the time to do it," said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. "I am looking forward to it and hope we
wrestle better than we did at the National Duals."
The Cowboys are currently 13-1 on the year, while the Golden Gophers are perfect with an 18-0 record. Oklahoma State has compiled a remarkable 117-12-1 record in the past six-plus seasons, bur Minnesota has handed the Cowboys six of those losses.
Many fans are looking forward to the rematch at heavyweight, when Minnesota's Cole Konrad pinned two-time NCAA champion Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State, which clinched the dual meet win for the Gophers. Konrad snapped Mocco's winning streak at 85 straight wins.This may be a key match to the outcome of the dual meet this Sunday, as well.
The dual meet between Oklahoma and Hofstra will also feature many talented athletes who are expected to be contenders for All-American honors later in the year.
Both ESPNU and the college coaches involved in the competition are excited about this competition having a national television showcase.
"The ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational has the promise to become one of the leading annual events in this sport," said Burke Magnus, vice president and general manager, ESPNU. "We are thrilled to present the best in college wrestling to college sports fans across the nation."
The ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational will commence the wrestling season at Ford Center, which will also host the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships a month later with coverage on ESPN and ESPNU.
"It is exciting that wrestling is getting some national recognition," said Oklahoma State Coach John Smith. "There is no question that we appreciate ESPN for taking an interest in a very strong sport in a good area for wrestling."
"We're elated to be a part of the ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational," said Minnesota Coach J Robinson. "It should be a great event for the fans, as well as our student-athletes. It's important for all of us in the sport to work together to make sure that collegiate wrestling continues to grow. We're grateful that ESPNU and Double Sport are committed to putting together a world-class event."
"This is going to be an exciting event for wrestling, because two of the nation's best teams will be com-peting side-by-side," said Oklahoma Coach Jack Spates. "This is also an honor for Oklahoma wrestling to be competing against an outstanding opponent in Hofstra. This will be an outstanding challenge to our wrestlers and we know we need to come prepared."
"We are excited about participating in the ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational in February," said Hofstra Coach Tom Ryan. "I am sure it is going to be a great day of college wrestling with four exciting and dynamic programs. In addition, it will be a good experience for our team to get a preview of the National Championships at the Ford Center in front of the great wrestling fans of the state of Oklahoma. We appreciate ESPN's and Double Sport's promotion of college wrestling."
Tickets for both the ESPNU Double Sport Wrestling Invitational and the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships are available by calling the Ford Center ticket office at 405-235-8288 or logging on to ticketmaster.com.