Nelson, Gophers ready to start season

Minnesota starts the season on the road at the Bison Open this Saturday.

Minnesota's Tony Nelson wrestles against a Michigan opponent Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, at the Sports Pavilion.

Daily File Photo, Erin Westover

Minnesota’s Tony Nelson wrestles against a Michigan opponent Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, at the Sports Pavilion.

Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers wrestling team opens its 2013-14 season Saturday at the Bison Open in Fargo, N.D.

Minnesota is ranked No. 3 in InterMat’s preseason national poll.

The Gophers finished third at the NCAA championships last season and will return eight All-Americans, including redshirt senior heavyweight Tony Nelson, a two-time defending Big Ten and NCAA champion.

Nelson has a 98-11 career record at Minnesota. He became the fifth Gophers wrestler to win back-to-back NCAA championships last March and the second heavyweight to do so.

He said his goal for this season is to win a third-straight NCAA championship.

Nelson is one of five seniors on a squad that returns nine of 10 wrestlers from last season’s NCAA lineup.

In addition to Nelson, the team returns redshirt junior Dylan Ness, junior Logan Storley and redshirt junior Scott Schiller, who finished fourth, fourth and fifth in their respective weight classes at the NCAA championships last season.

Nelson, Schiller, Storley and redshirt senior Kevin Steinhaus make up Minnesota’s formidable group of upper-weight wrestlers.

InterMat’s preseason rankings have Nelson, Schiller and Storley first, second and fifth in their respective classes. The website ranks seven Minnesota wrestlers in the top 10 of their respective classes.

Gophers assistant coach Luke Becker said Steinhaus will miss the early part of the season with a torn ACL. The team is otherwise healthy, he said.

Minnesota will use the Bison Open to determine its 10-man lineup for the early part of the season, Becker said.

Minnesota won five individual titles at the 2012 Bison Open.

It finished 16-2 in dual matches last season, won the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Dual Championship and finished second at the Big Ten championships.

Nelson said there’s still some room for improvement.

“If we could jump from our second- and third-place finishes to win the national title, it would bring the team closer than it already is,” Nelson said.