Column: Only the postseason matters for Nelson, ya feel me?

by Samuel Gordon

It’s one of the oldest clichés in all of sports: It’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish.

It became a cliché because it’s applicable to almost every situation in sports.

It’s about how you finish out halves or periods.

It’s about how you finish out games or matches.

It’s about how you finish out seasons.

And in senior star wrestler Tony Nelson’s case, it’s about how you finish out a career.

Nelson, the two-time defending national champion in the heavyweight class, has dropped his last three matches and four of his last six.

To give that some perspective, in his 2012 and 2013 championship campaigns, the big fella lost a combined three matches.

It’s those levels of dominance that have helped Nelson cement his place in Gophers — and college — wrestling lore.

At this stage of Nelson’s career — in the middle of his final regular season — there’s nothing Nelson can do to advance his legacy. The only thing that matters to him is the postseason.

Nelson is the Miami Heat of college wrestling — forced to try and stay interested in a regular season when the only things that matter are the three-peat and national team title.

And that’s something Nelson acknowledged himself Sunday.

“This doesn’t matter,” Nelson told the Minnesota Daily after losing to Indiana heavyweight Adam Chalfant. “The end of the year is what matters, so that’s what I have to keep working toward.”

You can translate that to: “I’ll be more than ready come tournament time.”

At this point, the three wrestlers ranked ahead of Nelson in the NCAA heavyweight rankings are from the Big Ten.

So he’ll be especially familiar with all of those foes after the Big Ten tournament, which only bodes well for his three-peat chances.

His teammates, meanwhile, are picking up his slack and keeping the Gophers near the top of the team rankings.

Minnesota is 9-1 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten and once again in a prime position for a run at a national championship.

The Gophers will spend the rest of their season gearing up for their postseason, just as Nelson will spend the rest of the season gearing up for his.

The Big Ten conference meet is more than a month out, with the NCAA championships following two weeks later.

Nelson’s college career will be over after that, and as he very well knows, it’s about how you finish.

Ya feel me?