Gophers finish 17th in NCAA championships

Ethan Lizak earned the lone All-American accolade for the team, by finishing fourth at 125 pounds.

Senior Nick Wanzek at 165 takes a Northwestern wrestler down during the match on Sunday, Jan. 28 at Maturi Pavilion.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Senior Nick Wanzek at 165 takes a Northwestern wrestler down during the match on Sunday, Jan. 28 at Maturi Pavilion.

Jack White

Redshirt junior Ethan Lizak went down two different paths to earn All-American accolades.

Lizak lost in the championship round in the 2017 tournament, but this year, he had to go through wrestlebacks to finish All-American back-to-back.

He lost his second-round match 4-2 in overtime, then followed that with five victories in a row to claim All-American honors and finish fourth. He was the only Minnesota wrestler to finish top eight, the qualification for All-American. 

“I wrestled a lot more matches,” Lizak said. “My body is a lot more beat up and sore. I just had to push through it.”

Minnesota finished 17th in the NCAA championship, scoring 27.5 points in Cleveland by the end of the tournament on Saturday.

Besides Lizak, redshirt seniors Jake Short and Nick Wanzek, redshirt juniors Tommy Thorn, Brandon Krone and Steve Bleise and sophomore Mitch McKee competed in the NCAA championships.

“I can’t say enough about these guys,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “It’s a meat grinder, this tournament, but I’m proud of them.”

McKee fell one victory short of All-American honors for the second year in a row. Eggum said McKee talked about improvements after the match.

“One of them [being] offensive attacks,” Eggum said. “I think another thing is trying to be patient on the bottom.”

Wanzek and Short, both from Simley High School, concluded their collegiate careers in the NCAA championships. Wanzek lost his match that would have given him All-American honors. 

“I was just wrestling to be able to compete in one more match every time,” Wanzek said. “I’m thankful that I got to be able to compete in the NCAAs one more time.”

Short lost in the third round of consolation matches. Bleise lost in the second round of the consolation bracket.

Krone and Thorn were both eliminated from competition on Friday, the second day of the event. Thorn lost in the first round of the championship and fell in the consolation round the next match. Krone won his first match, but lost the following two.