Dardanes, Ness power Gophers to first place

The team had seven wrestlers place in the top five of their weight class.

Danny Chen

The Gophers bolted out to a commanding start to this season in early November, and they haven’t looked back.

They continued their dominance this weekend, cruising to a first-place finish in Las Vegas at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

The Gophers competed against 38 programs and had seven wrestlers place in the top five of their weight class.

Head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said his team wrestled strong and gave its best effort.

“I think we got a lot accomplished,” Eggum said. “The nice thing was [that] we learned a bit about where each of the guys are at and what they need to work on. And that’s pretty important.”

Out of eight wrestlers who advanced to the final session, five went on to wrestle in the semifinals.

Redshirt senior Nick Dardanes and senior Logan Storley lost in their semifinal matches, but they eventually placed third and fourth, respectively, in the tournament.

Redshirt seniors Scott Schiller, Dylan Ness and Chris Dardanes all advanced to the championship of their weight class.

Schiller, who is ranked No. 1 in the 197-pound weight class, wrestled a fairly even match against No. 3 Kyven Gadson of Iowa State. But Schiller came up just short of a victory, losing in a 5-3 decision.

Chris Dardanes and Ness, on the other hand, both earned individual titles in their weight classes.

Dardanes, ranked No. 2, wrestled against No. 9 Rossi Bruno of Michigan in the 133-pound title match.

He only led 4-2 at the end of the second period. But in the first 30 seconds of the third, he had an escape and a takedown, ultimately defeating Bruno in an 8-3 decision.

“[The] third period is when I really try to pick up the pace,” Chris Dardanes said. “I want to make sure that I finish the match strong and remain focused.”

Ness, ranked No. 1 in the 157-pound weight class, met No. 2 James Green of Nebraska in the final.

Heading into the final, Ness won three of his four matches by a pin, while the other victory came from a major decision.

Against Green, Ness wrestled his toughest match of the tournament.

Ness was winning by only one point for most of the competition, and he managed to maintain that one-point lead until the end of the third period, winning 4-3.

“I think I wrestled very well in the tournament, [and] I stayed focused this weekend on winning,” Ness said. “I went 1-1 last season against [James Green]. I had a game plan going in [to the match], executed it well and [ended] up being the champion.”

Eggum said his wrestlers did well in the tournament with getting the team bonus points.

“If you look back in the past history of the NCAA championships, the [teams] that [do] a great job of getting bonus points are usually the ones contending for a title,” Eggum said. “It’s one thing that we strive [for] as a team. The bonus points make a difference in the end.”