Minnesota finishes Big Tens in third

Redshirt senior Chris Dardanes took home the title at 133 pounds.

Senior Dylan Ness wrestles during his match in the Williams Arena on Jan. 30 against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Image by Daily File Photo, Liam James Doyle

Senior Dylan Ness wrestles during his match in the Williams Arena on Jan. 30 against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

by Danny Chen

The Gophers left the Big Ten championships on Sunday with a third-place finish and a senior earning a title — strikingly similar results to last year’s championship.

Only this time the Gophers relied on their performance in the 133-pound weight class with redshirt senior Chris Dardanes taking home the title.

Dardanes is one of seven Minnesota wrestlers who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA championships.

Head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said the team could qualify even more wrestlers, depending on at-large bids.

“Hopefully, we can [get] one of the other guys through with the allocations,” Eggum said. “They go through a … scoring system where maybe [Ethan] Lizak or [Nick] Wanzek can get in as well.”

While the team waits for additional qualifications, Dardanes’ fate is sealed.

Dardanes finished third at last year’s Big Ten championships and fourth the year before that. But on Sunday he improved on his already-perfect season.

The redshirt senior moved to 23-0 by defeating No. 2 Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin in a 7-2 decision.

Dardanes said the championship round was a lot closer than the score made it seem.

“I felt like I was really efficient and controlled the tide,” Dardanes said. “[But] my opponent was really athletic, quick and strong, too. He was definitely a tough opponent to face.”

Redshirt sophomore Brett Pfarr and redshirt senior Dylan Ness also wrestled in title matches on Sunday, but both fell.

It was Pfarr’s first experience competing in the Big Ten championships, and he reached the final match by defeating Penn State’s Matt McCutcheon 4-2.

He said the first takedown got his momentum going.

“I was looking to build a lead on him,” Pfarr said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a higher lead. I beat him pretty good [in the regular season] at the Penn State dual, but I guess a win is a win. It got me into the final.”

In the final, Pfarr faced Michigan’s Domenic Abounader, an opponent who he previously lost to in the regular season.

A late takedown in the third period by Abounader prevented Pfarr from winning his first Big Ten title.

Pfarr said his opponent came prepared to face him.

“He must have watched some video on me,” Pfarr said. “He came out and got two takedowns on me right away. I wasn’t expecting it. He’s pretty good at top, but I was confident with my ability to get away. And at one point, the [score] was tied up, but he ended getting a third takedown in the final period, and I wasn’t able to comeback from that.”

Ness, the 157-pounder, faced a tough opponent in Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez, who has been undefeated the whole season.

The redshirt senior failed to win his second Big Ten title, losing to Martinez 12-5.

“There were a lot of opportunities for him to score points,” Eggum said. “For Dylan, that was a winnable match, no question about it. I think overall, he wrestled extremely well, but there are some things he could work on. He will make some adjustments and look towards the NCAAs.”

The whole team will try to make adjustments as it heads into Minnesota’s final meet of the season later this month.

“There are still some things that we need to improve on,” Eggum said. “[But] the most important thing is for us is to stay positive and be focused for what is coming up next.”