For Gophers wrestling, the NCAA Championships – which begin Thursday – serve as a chance to redeem themselves against Big Ten champions Penn State.
Penn State finished atop the conference this year for the second straight season, leaving Minnesota at second place for another year.
In 2012, Penn State claimed the NCAA championship as well – leaving Minnesota as runner ups once again. Then-redshirt freshman Dylan Ness claimed second place after falling 4-1 to Penn State’s Frank Molinaro in the final round.
Heavyweight Tony Nelson has been the only Gophers wrestler to not falter in the postseason. The redshirt junior will defend his 2012 National Heavyweight Title as a No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Nelson (28-1) had a 41-match winning streak before losing to Missouri’s Dominique Bradley in the Southern Scuffle finals on Jan. 2. Bradley (35-1) is the top seed.
Nelson claimed the Big Ten heavyweight crown for the second straight year along with Ness, a 6-seed, who took first in the conference at 149 pounds two weeks ago.
Minnesota got eight of its 10 wrestlers seeded in the NCAAs this season, with two-time All-American Kevin Steinhaus (5-seed), Logan Storley (6-seed), Scott Schiller (10-seed), Cody Yohn (11-seed), Chris Dardanes (5-seed) and Nick Dardanes (8-seed) joining Nelson and Ness in the ranks.
David Thorn and Danny Zilverberg will wrestle unseeded at 125 pounds and 157 pounds, respectively.
The NCAA Championships end Saturday night with the final rounds at each weight.