Ness, Nelson to vie for individual NCAA titles on Saturday

Minnesota will have seven All-Americans this year.

Gophers' Senior Sonny Yohn wrestles Michigan's Max Huntley during Jan. 27 dual at the Sports Pavilion.

Erin Westover, Daily File Photo

Gophers’ Senior Sonny Yohn wrestles Michigan’s Max Huntley during Jan. 27 dual at the Sports Pavilion.

Drew Claussen

ST. LOUIS — Minnesota advanced eight wrestlers beyond day one of the NCAA championships and was sitting in second place.

That momentum seemed to halt Friday.

Dylan Ness (149 pounds) and Tony Nelson (heavyweight) are the only two Gophers still vying for a national title at their respective weight classes. Five other Minnesota wrestlers are competing in the loser’s bracket, which is more commonly referred to as the wrestleback bracket.

Session III sent five Gophers’ wrestlers to the consolation bracket, including seniors Zach Sanders (125) and Sonny Yohn (197).

Ness, Logan Storley (174) and Nelson assured themselves All-American status by advancing past the quarterfinals. The top-eight finishers in each weight class are considered All-Americans.

Sanders, Chris Dardanes (133), Kevin Steinhaus (184) and Yohn also locked up All-American status in the wrestleback bracket Friday night.

No. 2 seeded Sanders lost to No. 10 seeded Nicholas Megaludis from Penn State, 7-4, to start off the morning for the Gophers. Minnesota lost the next two matches as Nick Dardanes (141) and his brother Chris dropped matches to higher seeded wrestlers.

Chris Dardanes bounced back and won in the wrestleback bracket, but Nick lost his next match and was eliminated one win shy of becoming an All-American.

After the three losses to start the day the Gophers found themselves on the right side of an upset when No. 7 Ness (149) knocked off No. 2 Jamal Parks from Oklahoma State, 3-2. Ness rode Parks in the third period to pick up an extra point for riding time and get the victory.

Ness had previously lost twice to Parks this season. Parks was undefeated on the year until Ness beat him Friday.

Ness rode that momentum and knocked off Pittsburgh’s Tyler Nauman 8-5.

Ness’ win wasn’t the only excitement for Minnesota on Friday, as Storley, a true freshman, used a last-second takedown to fuel his 3-1 win in the quarterfinals over Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa.

Fourth-seeded Storley’s tournament run ended in the semifinals when he faced undefeated Ed Ruth from Penn State and lost 17-1. Storley will wrestle in the wrestleback bracket Saturday and can finish third at his weight with two victories.

Although Minnesota’s top three weights have come up big for it all season, Nelson was the only one of the trio to avoid elimination entering Saturday.

Nelson wrestled his most dominating match of the tournament and pinned No. 10 seeded Michael McMullan from Northwestern. Through his first three matches, Nelson hadn’t surrendered a point to his any of his opponents.

Steinhaus lost a heartbreaking match to Cornell’s No. 4 Steve Bosak 1-0. The fifth-seeded sophomore had a late takedown attempt but ran out of time to get the points. Yohn also lost to higher-seeded Christopher Honeycutt of Edinboro.

Saturday’s lineup

Nelson and Ness will seek their respective championships Saturday evening. Title matches begin at 6:30 and are ordered by weight class.

The mat will be raised on a stage at the center of the Scottrade Center floor for the title matches.

Ness will go against Penn State’s Frank Molinaro and Nelson will go against Lehigh’s Zachery Rey. Molinaro is undefeated and the No. 1 seed, Rey is the defending champion at heavyweight.

Sanders, Chris Dardanes, Storley, Steinhaus and Yohn will all battle for the opportunity to wrestle for third place in their respective weight classes tomorrow.

Team standings

Minnesota remains in second in team points after Friday. The Gophers trail Penn State 124-101. With only two wrestlers remaining, Minnesota is realistically eliminated from a team title, it holds a comfortable lead over rival Iowa (currently third with 87.5 points).