Safratowich compiled 28-10 overall record for Gophers, won national freestyle crown

After helping the University of Minnesota wrestling team win the NCAA Championship in 2007, Park Rapids' Tyler Safratowich was looking to contend for individual All-American honors and help the Gophers defend their title this season.

After helping the University of Minnesota wrestling team win the NCAA Championship in 2007, Park Rapids' Tyler Safratowich was looking to contend for individual All-American honors and help the Gophers defend their title this season.

Safratowich and the Gophers were on pace to fulfill those goals until things changed at the Big Ten Conference Championships.

At last year's conference tournament, Safratowich finished third at 165 pounds to earn his first trip to the NCAA Championships. Safratowich went 2-2 in his debut at nationals to help the Gophers win the national title.

Entering this year's Big Ten Conference meet in March in Minneapolis, Safratowich was ranked No. 11 in the nation at 165 pounds and was the No. 3 seed for the tournament.

In the first round, Safratowich defeated Purdue's Luke Manuel 13-5. However, the U of M junior was upset by Indiana's Matt Coughlin 6-4 in the quarterfinals and dropped into the consolation bracket.


After pinning Northwestern's Dominic Marella in 5:48 in his first consolation match, Safratowich suffered another upset with a 5-4 loss to Penn State's Dave Rella.

That loss meant Safratowich needed to defeat Wisconsin's Jake Donar in the seventh-place match to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. Donar pulled off the upset by pinning Safratowich in 6:14.

Safratowich still had a chance to qualify for the national tournament by being selected as one of two alternates by the Big Ten Conference coaches. Safratowich missed out on one of the two at-large bids by one vote.

"My performance was not what I wanted or expected. It was just one of those tournaments where things did not feel right and I was a half step behind on every scramble," said Safratowich, who received Big Ten Conference academic honors for the third year in a row. "I cannot be upset with who the coaches chose for the wild cards. When you leave your fate in the hands of other people, things can go wrong and they did. I should not have put myself in that situation and I take full responsibility that I did not qualify for the national tournament."

The Gophers also failed to repeat as Big Ten champs as Iowa claimed the title with 127 points. Minnesota was second with 112.50 points before a home crowd at Williams Arena.

Minnesota entered the national tournament ranked No. 2 in the nation, but ended up placing 10th with 61.50 points. That was the Gophers' lowest finish since 1996. Iowa won the national title with 117.50 points.

For the season, an injury-plagued Gophers team went 14-7 in dual meets, including a 5-3 mark against Big Ten Conference opponents.

"The team did OK in spite of the injuries we had. It was a very tough year for us with our top guys in and out of the lineup with injuries," said Safratowich. "I believe we could have performed better, but it is a very tough tournament and our guys gave it everything they had, injured or not."


Up until the Big Ten meet, Safratowich was having another successful season.

The Gophers started the season ranked No. 1 in the first national polls and Safratowich was rated No. 7 at 165. Minnesota had eight wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes.

At the season-opening Bison Open at North Dakota State University, Safratowich was defeated by teammate Scott Glasser 5-3 in the title match at 165.

Glasser defeated Safratowich again at the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, NE (this time with a 4-3 decision). Safratowich went 5-2 in that tournament to finish in fifth place.

In his first dual meet of the season, Safratowich defeated Devan Lewis 8-5 as the Gophers defeated Northern Colorado 29-9.

Safratowich posted a 16-1 technical fall win over Devin Velasquez in the Gophers' 34-9 win over Cal State Fullerton.

At the National Duals in Cedar Falls, IA on Jan. 12-13, Safratowich defeated Donnie Jones 6-2 as the No. 6-ranked Gophers' defeated West Virginia 32-9. Safratowich followed with a 13-5 win over Steve Brown as Minnesota defeated No. 5-ranked Central Michigan 20-16. In the semifinals, Safratowich was defeated by No. 8-ranked Stephen Dwyer 4-1 as No. 10 Nebraska defeated the Gophers 24-13. Safratowich didn't wrestle in the final match as No. 7 Michigan defeated the Gophers 23-16 in the third-place match.

Safratowich posted a 10-1 major decision over Ryan Meyer in Minnesota's 34-9 win over South Dakota State on Jan. 20 and defeated Rex Kendle 12-5 as the No. 4-ranked Gophers opened the Big Ten season with a 23-15 win over Michigan State on Jan. 25.


The Gophers edged No. 5 Michigan 24-15 on Jan. 26 despite a 6-2 loss by Safratowich to No. 3-ranked Eric Tannenbaum. Safratowich's 4-3 win over Jake Kerr wasn't enough as the Gophers dropped a 20-13 decision to No. 1 Iowa on Feb. 1.

Safratowich defeated No. 5 Jake Dieffenbach 5-1 in overtime, but the Gophers were edged by No. 3 Oklahoma State 18-14 on Feb. 3.

A pin at the 3:15 mark by Safratowich against Dominic Marella helped the Gophers defeat No. 11 Northwestern 33-12 on Feb. 8.

Safratowich defeated Justin Fraga 5-2 as Minnesota defeated Purdue 32-8 on Feb. 10 and defeated Clint Arlis 11-4 as the Gophers were defeated by No. 8 Illinois 19-17 on Feb. 15. Safratowich was ranked No. 20 in that match.

The Gophers ended the regular season with a 20-17 loss to No. 13 Wisconsin on Feb. 17 and a 23-18 win over No. 5 Ohio State on Feb. 24. Safratowich defeated Wisconsin's Jake Donar 6-3 and upset No. 8-ranked Colt Sponseller 4-2 as No. 9 Minnesota defeated Ohio State.

Safratowich then finished eighth at the Big Ten Championships to end his season with a 28-10 overall record and four pins. Safratowich had a 7-1 record in Big Ten duals and went 12-2 overall in dual meets.

"Overall the season went well," said Safratowich. "I started off slow but was able to build momentum and begin wrestling well towards the end of the year. I had a couple big wins over some highly ranked opponents and was really wrestling well going into the Big Ten Tournament."

Safratowich will be looking to help the Gophers return to the top of the Big Ten Conference and NCAA Division I ranks next year. The Gophers won back-to-back Big Ten titles in Safratowich's freshman and sophomore seasons before placing second this year. Minnesota was the national runner-up in 2005-06 before winning the national title last season.


As a red-shirt freshman, Safratowich went 17-6 at 141 pounds. Safratowich then posted a 16-8 record at 141 and 0-1 record at 149 as a freshman and followed with a 32-14 overall record with seven pins and eight major decisions as a sophomore. Safratowich went 20-10 at 157 before moving up to 165 and going 12-4. Safratowich finished third at the Big Ten Conference meet to qualify for his first national tourney. Safratowich defeated five ranked opponents and lost eight matches to ranked foes last season.

Despite graduating nine seniors - including national qualifiers Mack Reiter (133), Manuel Rivera (141), C.P. Schlatter (157), Gabe Dretsch (174), Roger Kish (184) and Justin Bronson (197) - Safratowich knows the Gophers won't be considered the favorite to win the conference and national titles next season. However, Safratowich is counting on ending his collegiate career in style.

"We have a long spring and summer ahead of us. With a lot of seniors graduating and so many young guys around, we need to use this time to train and train hard. Next year will be indicative of how this summer goes. If we can get the young guys to train as hard as they can, then our season will indicate the hard work they have put in. It is not going to be easy, but this could be our time to shine and show everyone exactly what Minnesota wrestling is: to fight when we are down and to win as the underdog," said Safratowich. "For myself, obviously I am upset from this season but I am using it to motivate me to finish my career right. I have learned many things about wrestling and about myself from this past season and I plan on using this knowledge to make me a better wrestler in the future. My goal is to be a national champion."

Safratowich won a national championship in April by capturing the 70 kg championship at the University Freestyle Nationals at the University of Akron (Ohio).

Safratowich defeated six opponents at nationals to win the 154.25-pound title.

The title earned Safratowich an invitation to the University World Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June.

At the national tournament, Safratowich opened with a 1-3, 3-0, 3-1 decision over Andrew Nadhir of Wildcat Wrestling before defeating Will McDermott of Northern Illinois 2-0, 7-0; Glenn Shober of the Naval Academy 3-0, 3-1; Danny Gonsor of Cavalier Wrestling 4-0, 4-1; and Jonathan Bonilla-Bowmna of NYAC 1-2, 1-1, 2-2 to reach the finals.

In the championship match, Safratowich defeated Joel Ahern of the Naval Academy 3-0, 1-0.


So far during his senior season at the U of M, Safratowich is rated No. 19 in the nation at 157 pounds and has a 13-5 record with five pins, two major decisions and three wins by technical fall. The Gophers are 3-1 in dual meets and ranked No. 7 in the nation.

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