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Thorn 3rd, Minnesota 7th at NCAA championships

Senior captain Mike Thorn used late heroics against Iowa’s Montell Marion to secure his team-best 3rd place finish.
Thorn 3rd, Minnesota 7th at NCAA championships
Image by Daily File Photo

Despite a disappointing seventh-place finish in the team race, Minnesota grabbed five All-America honors at the NCAA championships, four from wrestlers who will return next season.

The All-American who will not be returning, however, is senior captain Mike Thorn (141 pounds), who took third and was the teamâÄôs highest finisher.

Last year, senior captain Jayson Ness highlighted the GophersâÄô NCAA championships with closing-seconds heroics. This year, Mike Thorn got his chance.

Thorn beat rival Montell Marion of Iowa 4-3 in the waning seconds of their consolation match.

âÄúNo matter what, I was going to end my wrestling career today,âÄù Thorn said. âÄúIf I had to write a way to go out, I think this is a pretty good way, beating an Iowa guy in the closing seconds.âÄù

Thorn trailed with less than 10 seconds to go but secured the takedown with time winding down to end his career on a high note.

âÄúAt that point, your odds of getting a takedown are very minimal, but he found a way to get on his leg and score the takedown in the closing seconds,âÄù head assistant coach Joe Russell said.

âÄú[It was] kind of a storybook way to end your career.âÄù

Added Thorn: âÄúI donâÄôt view it as a disappointment. I had a chance to make the finals and I would have loved to, but I have to accept the way things ended and IâÄôm comfortable with that.âÄù

ThornâÄôs fellow captains earned All-America honors at their respective weights as well, with Zach Sanders finishing fifth and Sonny Yohn taking seventh.

Sanders (125) dropped a 5-3 decision to Utah ValleyâÄôs Ben Kjar in the quarterfinals and then another 5-4 decision in the consolation semifinals to NorthwesternâÄôs Brandon Precin.

Sanders closed the championships strong, though, with a 6-2 decision over Ryan Mango of Stanford to earn fifth place and become an All-American for the third time in his career.

Yohn (197) exacted a little revenge to earn his highest career finish at the championships as well and his second straight All-America honors.

Yohn dropped a second-round match to IndianaâÄôs Matt Powless, a wrestler to whom he also lost in the Big Ten championships.

Yohn and Powless met again in the seventh-place match after both worked their way through consolation brackets. This time, Yohn emerged with a 5-2 decision.

Two of MinnesotaâÄôs freshmen capped off impressive rookie campaigns with All-America accolades as well. Tony Nelson (heavyweight) took seventh and Kevin Steinhaus (184) eighth.

Nelson struggled with inconsistent offense at times this season, but he had no trouble in the seventh-place match, pinning Arizona StateâÄôs Levi Cooper in the first period.

Steinhaus was the only Gophers All-American to drop his final match, but he secured the honors by winning four of his opening five matches. Steinhaus dropped a 4-2 decision in the seventh-place match to familiar foe Travis Rutt of Wisconsin, whom he lost to twice previously on the year.

Steinhaus earned the 100th All-America honor in J RobinsonâÄôs tenure, and the coach now boasts 102 total accolades from 48 different wrestlers.

Still, a team that came into the year with national title aspirations had a tough pill to swallow in finishing behind six other teams in the country, two in the Big Ten (Penn State won the team title, Iowa finished third).

âÄúItâÄôs tough not to win the trophy, but we definitely have a bright future with the guys we have in the room,âÄù Russell said.

He added: âÄúWe obviously wanted to do better as far as the team race goes, but having five All-Americans is a big shot in the arm to our program.âÄù

That a seventh-place national finish is viewed as a disappointment speaks volumes of a program that has come to expect excellence.

âÄúNobody came away with what they wanted [a national title] and thatâÄôs always hard,âÄù Russell said. âÄúOur guys were disappointed but also resolute in what they need to do [this offseason] so they donâÄôt have that feeling again.âÄù

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