Gophers finish eighth at championships

Five of the eight wrestlers at the NCAAs earned All-American honors.

by Danny Chen

After placing third in the Big Ten tournament and entering the NCAA championships as the fourth-ranked team in the nation, the Gophers’ expectations were high. They were following a three-year run of placing in the top three.

But this year, they took eighth.

Minnesota only scored 59.5 points at the 2015 NCAA championship over the weekend, after finishing with 104 points last year.

The Gophers finished 42.5 points behind first-place Ohio State.

“There were some good and bad in the tournament,” head coach J Robinson told reporters. “But you can’t win a national tournament with bad — [you’ve] got to have good.”

Minnesota didn’t have a wrestler compete in a first-place match after two wrestlers fought for an individual title last year.

Minnesota sent four wrestlers to the NCAA quarterfinals and two to the semifinal matches, redshirt seniors Chris Dardanes and Dylan Ness.

Dardanes, the No. 1 seeded 133-pounder, was upset by No. 13 Cody Brewer of Oklahoma with a 15-3 major decision loss.

Ness’ chance of winning a national title was taken away after a shoulder injury in the first period. He was a second-place finisher in the 157-pound weight class last year.

Of the eight wrestlers the Gophers sent to the championships, five finished as All-Americans.

Redshirt sophomore Michael Kroells became an All-American for the first time in his career after placing eighth in the heavyweight class.

Kroells said it was great to become an All-American, but as a competitor, he wanted to achieve more.

“It could be considered a greedy personality, but I’m always trying to improve,” Kroells told reporters. “[Getting named an All-American] doesn’t feel quite as good as it should have, but all I’m doing is feeding my hunger for being a national champion.”

Among the other four wrestlers, two became four-time All-Americans: Ness and senior Logan Storley.

Ness and Storley were only the ninth and 10th wrestlers in program history to accomplish the feat.

“It is something very, very special to do,” Robinson said. “I mean, there are a lot of guys that win NCAA tournaments that aren’t four-time All-Americans, so that tells you that there’s a consistency.”

Despite his injury, Ness finished the tournament, taking the mat one last time in the consolation semifinal.

Although Ness defaulted the match immediately, the two-time NCAA runner up and four-time All-American was given a standing ovation from a crowd of almost 18,800 people at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

“We wanted to put him out there so that the crowd, not just the Minnesota crowd, can acknowledge who he was and what he has done,” Robinson said. “For the last four years, he has brought a lot of excitement.”

Like Ness, Storley also gave fans four years of elite wrestling.

Storley became an All-American as a true freshman at 174 pounds, placing sixth in his first NCAA championships.

And in the following years, he finished fourth and third at the NCAAs, respectively, and fourth again this year.

Storley said he wouldn’t trade his career at Minnesota for anything.

“It’s been great,” Storley said. “I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to — a national title — but at the end of the day, I achieved the status of four-time All-American, and I am up there with 10 of the best guys that have ever [come] through the program.”