Jake Deitchler expected to return as Minnesota begins with Bison Open

Minnesota will look to re-establish itself after losing head assistant coach Joe Russell.

Drew Claussen

After finishing seventh in the NCAA championships last year, the No. 4 GophersâÄô wrestling team will try to rise back to the top of the college wrestling world.

Four returning All-Americans, a promising collection of youngsters and the potential return of former phenom Jake Deitchler may help achieve that.

âÄúThis is a hard year to predict,âÄù assistant head coach Brandon Eggum said. âÄúWeâÄôve got a lot of young guys that are very talented that we expect big things from.âÄù

Eggum was promoted to his new post this offseason after serving as an assistant coach for 10 seasons. The departure of Joe Russell, who is now the head coach at George Mason University, vacated the position.

âÄúAs far as losing Joe, heâÄôs a guy that has been a big part of this program so that always hurts,âÄù Eggum said. âÄúBut the rest of us have been together of a long time, so weâÄôve got a lot of maturity on this staff.âÄù

Minnesota returns four All-Americans from last yearâÄôs team: seniors Zach Sanders (125 pounds) and Sonny Yohn (197) and sophomores Kevin Steinhaus (184) and Tony Nelson (heavyweight). The quartet will also serve as captains for this yearâÄôs squad.

âÄúThose guys are obviously going to be our leaders,âÄù Eggum said. âÄúBut we have a number of freshmen who are hoping to make the team, so itâÄôs kind of unknown âÄî weâÄôve got to wait and see what these guys can do.âÄù

One early test for the Gophers will be two road matches against No. 5 Cornell on Nov. 18 and No. 1 Penn State on Nov. 20.

âÄúWeâÄôre trying to not make a big deal out of it âÄî really, weâÄôre looking at it as just another dual,âÄù Eggum said. âÄúItâÄôs a little early to start off with such a tough dual. We donâÄôt do that very often, but it worked out this season where we thought it was the right thing to do.âÄù

Sanders will anchor the 125-pound spot for the Gophers this season after finishing fifth at the NCAA championships last spring. The three-time All-American has a career record of 102-23 with 28 pins.

He said his goal is to win an NCAA title this year after coming up short in years past. He also wasnâÄôt shy about his teamâÄôs aspirations.

âÄúI think itâÄôs doable for us to win a championship if we do everything right,âÄù Sanders said.

David Thorn and Chris Dardanes will compete for the 133-pound slot. Thorn went 16-13 last season at the weight.

Another weight that will have multiple wrestlers competing for playing time is 141. Bart Reiter, who moved up from 133, Nick Dardanes and Seth Lange are all potential fits for the spot. All three had double-digit wins last year.

Dylan Ness (149) appears to be all but assured a starting spot. The redshirt freshman went 16-1 in open meets last year.

Jake Deitchler (157) looks to make a comeback after missing last season with concussions. Deitchler represented Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was an elite recruit out of high school.

âÄúJakeâÄôs doing good, heâÄôs wrestled live since our first official practice,âÄù Eggum said. âÄúHeâÄôs done real well, weâÄôre expecting him to compete at 157 at the Bison [Open].âÄù

Danny Zilverberg will also compete at 157 after going 19-15 last season.

Cody Yohn (165) returns after going 28-13 last season, finishing fourth at the Big Ten championships.

The biggest question for the Gophers will be 174, which features a battle between senior Kaleb Young and true freshman Logan Storley. Young has a record of 44-38 for the Gophers but did not compete last season. Storley was a six-time state champion in South Dakota.

The GophersâÄô final three weight classes will be their strength with three All-Americans in Steinhaus, Yohn and Nelson.