Gophers win third straight National Duals

Minnesota beat No. 4 Cornell 24-15 in the final to win the championship.

Jared Christensen

If anyone was wondering whether the Gophers wrestling team deserves its No. 1 ranking, the team put those qualms to rest Monday with a dominant 24-15 win over No. 4 Cornell to win the NWCA National Duals.

The Gophers have now won three straight National Duals titles.

No. 1 Minnesota has picked up head-to-head victories over No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Cornell this season.

The Gophers’ weekend, capped by the win over Cornell in the National Duals final, also featured overwhelming wins over No. 20 North Dakota State and No. 13 Ohio State.

What’s more impressive is that two-time defending national heavyweight champion Tony Nelson — arguably Minnesota’s best wrestler — never even touched the mat.

Minnesota head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said he was happy with the way his team wrestled and praised his players for continuing their success.

“They wrestled really well this weekend,” he said. “And even the matches we lost were just dogfights — I thought we outwrestled [our opponents] in many of them and they just didn’t fall our way.”

Gophers junior 157-pounder Dylan Ness highlighted his team’s individual performances. Ness went 3-0 with two pins — one of which came in the first round against No. 10 Brian Realbuto of Cornell.

Ness came into the week ranked No. 5 overall, hot off a thrilling pin over No. 6 Dylan Alton of Penn State just a week earlier. That pin was the climax of the Gophers’ upset win over then-No. 1 Penn State.

“He’s wrestling great,” Eggum said of Ness. “He’s smart, composed and when he hits his scrambles at the right time, he’s nearly impossible to beat.”

Minnesota senior 133-pounder David Thorn also went undefeated this weekend, adding a pair of top-25 wins to his resume by topping No. 9 Johnni Dijulius of Ohio State and No. 15 Mark Grey of Cornell. He also picked up a pin over NDSU’s Justin LaValle in the quarterfinal dual.

Thorn said he relishes the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the country in tournaments of this caliber.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “We feel like we’re the best dual-meet team in the nation. And it’s fun to come out and represent Minnesota in a tournament like this.”

No. 5 Chris Dardanes returned to the lineup after missing three duals last month. Dardanes went 2-1 this weekend with wins against NDSU and Cornell and an 11-0 loss to No. 3 Logan Stieber of Ohio State.

Eggum would not go into detail about Dardanes’ injury.

Minnesota will have another opportunity to solidify its No. 1 ranking next week when it travels to Ames, Iowa, to take on No. 17 Iowa State in its final dual meet before the Big Ten tournament.