For the 20th time in the past 21 years, Minnesota finished among the top five in the nation’s toughest conference tournament after taking fifth at the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind., on Sunday with 93 points. As important as a return to the upper-tier of the conference, nine Minnesota wrestlers automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in two weeks. They will comprise the largest Minnesota contingent in the event since 2014.
“I thought we wrestled a good tournament, but today was a tough day because we lost some close ones,” said Head Coach Brandon Eggum. “Over the weekend, each of our guys won some matches, showed some heart and showed some fight, but everyone is still disappointed. Everyone’s goal was to win an individual Big Ten title. Overall, it was a good weekend, but our goal is to always try to win.”
After marching to the finals with three major decisions on Saturday, top-seeded Brett Pfarr donned the legendary gold singlet for the 197-pound title bout, his third match against Kollin Moore (Ohio State) this season. The match swung in favor of the Buckeye freshman in the first period when he hit a six-point move, building a lead Pfarr was unable to overcome despite a series of takedowns in the later periods. Pfarr’s 15-11 loss to Moore is just his second defeat so far this season, and his first to Moore. His runner-up finish ties a career-best, matching his accomplishments at 184 pounds as a sophomore.
After a last-second loss in Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals, Ethan Lizak rebounded to win four straight matches to close out a 5-1 run to third place. In those four wins, Lizak gave up just four points to his opponents in an impressive display of his featured skill – scoring from top position. Lizak had a fall in the round of 12 and, in his other five matches (a grouping that includes his lone defeat), he outscored his opponents 58-10. The third-place finish bested Lizak’s previous Big Ten tournament performance, when he finished seventh as a true freshman in 2015.
Michael Kroells reached the conference’s third-place contest for the second straight year, rebounding from a hard-fought loss to 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) to dominate Collin Jensen (Nebraska), 4-0. The win improved Kroells’ career record against his Cornhusker rival to 7-0. In the third-place match, Kroells fell to Nick Nevills (Penn State), 2-0.
Jake Short shook off a tough defeat during the morning’s consolation semifinals to win a one-sided decision over Alex Griffin (Purdue) in the fifth-place match. Short did not allow a takedown while finishing three of his own in the 8-3 win. The fifth-place Big Ten finish is the best to-date for the redshirt junior.
Short’s teammate since high school, Nick Wanzek, also turned in a career-best performance at Big Tens, taking sixth. Wanzek reached the podium the hard way, needing to pick up a pair of wins in wrestlebacks in order to reach his final contest.
After falling into wrestlebacks after semifinal defeats last night, 133-pounder Mitch McKee and 141-pounder Tommy Thorn both finished sixth. For McKee, the podium finish came in his Big Ten Championships debut.
Chris Pfarr became the last of nine Gophers to clinch his spot in the national tournament with a thrilling win in the ninth-place match on Sunday morning. Because the Big Ten was awarded nine automatic qualifier spots at his weight class, 174 pounds, Pfarr had a winner-take-all opportunity against Jordan Pagano (Rutgers). A reversal from Pagano, matched by two escapes from Pfarr, sent the match to overtime tied at two. Following a scoreless sudden victory overtime session, Pagano failed to escape Pfarr in the first of two 30-second tiebreakers, Pfarr got away from Pagano in his turn on bottom to take the match, 3-2.
“Everyone was ecstatic for Chris, even the fans. They were chanting his name every time he went out there. It was great to see because he’s an individual that’s really developed in college. That comes from all the hard work and effort he puts in. It was just phenomenal to see him make it through and clinch a spot,” in the NCAA tournament, said Eggum.
Joining Pfarr as a first-time NCAA qualifier are McKee and Bobby Steveson, the latter of whom entered the tournament seeded tenth at 184 pounds and outperformed his seed simply by reaching Sunday’s seventh-place match. In that bout, against Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin), Steveson did not allow a takedown, scoring his own in the third period to seal a 4-1 victory and his spot on the No. 7 step of the podium.
Minnesota’s other six automatic qualifiers are: Lizak, Thorn, Short, Wanzek, Kroells and Brett Pfarr. It will be the second career appearance in the tournament for Lizak, Thorn, Short and Wanzek, and the third for Kroells and Pfarr.
“Coming into the weekend, we knew we could probably get seven through to NCAAs,” added Eggum, “We knew Bobby and Chris could compete. To get them through was great. Nine guys is a big improvement from recent seasons. That gives us a lot to be excited about looking ahead.”
Full match-by-match results for both days of the Big Ten Championships are listed below.
With the Big Ten tournament now complete, there is just one event left on Minnesota’s 2016-17 schedule, the 2017 NCAA Championships. The three-day event that often defines seasons for the nation’s top collegiate wrestlers will begin on Thursday, March 16 and run through Saturday, March 18.
GopherSports.com is your home for Gopher Wrestling news throughout the 2016-17 season. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.
Big Ten Championships Results
Minnesota’s Match-by-Match Results
125 – Ethan Lizak (3rd Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Ethan Lizak tech fall Brandon Paetzell (Rutgers), 17-2
Quarters: Connor Youtsey (Michigan) dec (SV-1) Ethan Lizak, 5-3
Round of 12: Ethan Lizak fall (1:32) Anthony Rubinetti (Northwestern)
Cons Rnd of 4: Ethan Lizak tech fall Jose Rodriguez (Ohio State), 15-0
Cons Semis: Ethan Lizak maj dec Elijah Oliver (Indiana), 13-2
3rd Place: Ethan Lizak maj dec Travis Piotrowski (Illinois), 10-1
133 – Mitch McKee (6th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Mitch McKee dec (SV-1) Eli Stickley (Wisconsin), 6-4
Quarters: Mitch McKee maj dec Eric Montoya (Nebraska), 11-3
Semis: Cory Clark (Iowa) dec Mitch McKee, 7-1
Cons Semis: Zane Richards (Illinois) dec Mitch McKee, 10-4
5th Place: Eric Montoya (Nebraska) dec Mitch McKee, 5-3
141 – Tommy Thorn (6th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Tommy Thorn fall (2:19) Mousa Jodeh (Illinois)
Quarters: Tommy Thorn dec Topher Carton (Iowa), 8-4
Semis: Javier Gasca III (Michigan State) dec (SV-1) Tommy Thorn, 3-1
Cons Semis: Colton McCrystal (Nebraska) dec Tommy Thorn, 15-9
5th Place: Ryan Diehl (Maryland) maj dec Tommy Thorn, 12-2
149 – Carson Brolsma (DNP)
Champ Rnd 1: Micah Jordan (Ohio State) maj dec Carson Brolsma, 19-7
Cons Rnd 1: Carson Brolsma dec Colin Purinton (Nebraska), 4-1
Round of 12: Ken Theobold (Rutgers) maj dec Carson Brolsma, 11-2
157 – Jake Short (5th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Jake Short dec Justin Alexander (Maryland), 3-1
Quarters: Jake Short maj dec Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois), 11-2
Semis: Jason Nolf (Penn State) fall (6:09) Jake Short
Cons Semis: Tyler Berger (Nebraska) maj dec Jake Short, 13-2
5th Place: Jake Short dec Alex Griffin (Purdue), 8-3
165 – Nick Wanzek (6th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Nick Wanzek dec Cody Burcher (Ohio State), 5-1
Quarters: Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec Nick Wanzek, 10-3
Round of 12: Nick Wanzek dec Bryce Martin (Indiana), 5-2
Cons Rnd of 4: Nick Wanzek dec Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern), 4-1
Cons Semis: Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) fall (5:47) Nick Wanzek
5th Place: Drew Hughes (Michigan State) dec Nick Wanzek, 3-2
174 – Chris Pfarr (9th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Jacob Morrissey (Purdue) dec Chris Pfarr, 6-2
Cons Rnd 1: Bye
Round of 12: Devin Skatzka (Indiana) dec Chris Pfarr, 10-9
9th Place Semi: Chris Pfarr dec Micah Barnes (Nebraska), 11-8
9th Place: Chris Pfarr dec (TB-1) Jordan Pagano (Rutgers), 3-2
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184 – Bobby Steveson (7th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Bobby Steveson dec (SV-1) Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers), 11-9
Quarters: Sammy Brooks fall (4:08) Bobby Steveson
Round of 12: Bobby Steveson dec Mitch Sliga (Northwestern), 4-3
Cons Rnd of 4: Emery Parker (Illinois) fall (5:36) Bobby Steveson
7th Place: Bobby Steveson dec Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin), 4-1
197 – Brett Pfarr (2nd Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Brett Pfarr maj dec Jackson Striggow (Michigan), 12-3
Quarters: Brett Pfarr maj dec Christian Brunner (Purdue), 17-7
Semis: Brett Pfarr maj dec Matt McCutcheon (Penn State), 11-3
Finals: Kollin Moore (Ohio State) dec Brett Pfarr, 15-11
285 – Michael Kroells (4th Place)
Champ Rnd 1: Michael Kroells maj dec Tyler Kral (Purdue), 8-0
Quarters: Michael Kroells dec Conan Jennings (Northwestern), 3-1
Semis: Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec Michael Kroells, 14-7
Cons Semis: Michael Kroells dec Collin Jensen (Nebraska), 4-0
3rd Place: Nick Nevills (Penn State) dec Michael Kroells, 2-0
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