Gophers Finish Seventh at NCAAs

Philadelphia — Redshirt senior Mike Thorn paced the Minnesota wrestling team with a third-place finish in the 141 lbs. bracket and was one of five Gopher All-Americans at the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships as Minnesota closed out the 2010-11 season with a seventh place finish. The Gophers tallied 61.0 team points while Penn State captured its first team title since 1953 with 107.5 points.

Thorn tallied a pair of thrilling wins over nationally ranked foes to take third in the 141 lbs. bracket while Zach Sanders went 1-1 on Saturday to place fifth at 125 lbs.  Redshirt junior Sonny Yohn and redshirt freshman Tony Nelson each tallied wins in their matches to place seventh at the 197 and 285 lbs. weight classes, respectively, and redshirt freshman Kevin Steinhaus closed out the Gophers’ All-Americans with an eighth-place finish at 184 lbs.

Thorn, who also earned Academic All-America honors, ended his college career with a bang, picking up two wins on Saturday including a last-second 4-3 decision over five seed Montell Marion of Iowa to finish third in a loaded 141 lbs. bracket and earn his second career All-America honor. The duo, who went 1-1 against each other this year including a 7-5 sudden victory contest in the Big Ten semifinals that saw Thorn come back from a 5-1 deficit to win in the added time, didn’t disappoint fans when they met in the NCAA consolation finals for a rubber match. The grapplers battled to a 2-2 tie in the third period with Marion building up enough riding time for one bonus point. But in the final seconds of the match, Thorn (39-5) scored the two-point takedown and held on to pick up the win and record his highest finish in the NCAA championships. Thorn pinned four seed James Kennedy of Illinois at 1:29 to advance to the consolation finals matchup against Marion.

The redshirt senior opened the NCAA championships with three-straight wins to reach the semifinals, beating North Carolina State’s Darius Little 2-1, Nick Nelson of Virginia 6-1 and 10 seed Todd Schavrien of Missouri with a pin at 2:03 to force the showdown with third seed Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly. Novachkov, who finished as the 141 lbs. runner up, picked up the 9-3 decision over Thorn to advance to the finals.

Thorn leaves Minnesota as one of best finishers in school history. His 37 career pins are the eighth most in program history while his 111 career wins (111-44 overall record), tie the St. Michael, Minn., native for 24th all-time at Minnesota with Brett Colombini (1991-95). His 2010-11 record of 39-5 ranks tied for 11th at Minnesota for wins in a season (Sanders: 2009-10).

Sanders posted his third All-America honor with a fifth-place finish in the 125 lbs. bracket, 5-2 in NCAA competition. The redshirt junior closed out this year’s campaign with a 6-2 decision victory over Ryan Mango of Stanford in the fifth-place match – tying Sanders career-best finish at the NCAA Championships (2010). Sanders (34-6) fell in his opening match on Saturday morning, dropping a 5-4 decision to Northwestern’s Brandon Precin in a rematch of the Big Ten semifinals.

The Wabasha, Minn., native opened the NCAA tournament with a 6-2 decision over Jason Lara of Oregon State and followed up with an 8-6 decision over 12 seed Jason Garnett of Virginia Tech. Sanders fell in his quarterfinal matchup – a 5-3 upset loss to Utah Valley’s Ben Kjar – but rebounded with two-straight wins in the consolation brackets, beating Matthew Snyder of Virginia with a 6-5 decision and adding a 4-2 sudden victory win over eight seed Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma to reach the consolation semifinals against Precin.

Sonny Yohn‘s seventh-place match at 197 lbs. saw the redshirt junior and now two-time All-American extract revenge on Indiana’s Matt Powless. Having already earned a win over Yohn in the Big Ten championships, Powless sent Yohn to the consolation bracket on Thursday with a 5-3 sudden victory decision. But in their third meeting of the year, Yohn (18-7) would not be denied. The redshirt junior would pick up a 5-2 decision over Powless to place seventh in the 197 lbs. brackets – Yohn’s highest-career finish at the NCAA championships. Yohn started the week with a 6-1 decision over Michigan’s Anthony Biondo and followed the loss to Powless with three-straight wins, beating Oregon State’s Chad Hanke 5-3, Nebraska’s Andy Johnson 3-1 and seven seed Zac Thomusseit of Pitt 2-1, before losing a 3-2 decision to Stanford’s Zack Giesen that forced a rematch against Powless.

At heavyweight, Nelson pinned Levi Cooper of Arizona State at 2:37 to place seventh in his first NCAA championships appearance – earning All-America honors in the process. Nelson (33-8) scored an early takedown to go up 2-0 on Cooper and forced the pin on the Sun Devil for the third pin of his career. Nelson beat Christian Brantley of Northern Iowa 3-1 to open the week but fell 4-1 to nine seed Cameron Wade of Penn State in the next round. Nelson then rallied off three wins – a 6-1 decision over Michigan’s Ben Apland, a 10-3 decision over six seed Ryan Tomei of Pitt and a 3-2 tiebreaker over 10 seed Nathan Fernandez – before dropping his second match of the week to Spencer Myers of Maryland in a 2-1 tiebreaker.

Steinhaus ended his first NCAA championships appearance with an eighth-place finish at 184 lbs. Steinhaus (34-12) dropped a 4-2 decision to four seed Travis Rutt of Wisconsin in Saturday’s seventh-place match, earning All-American accolades for his 4-3 performance at this year’s tournament. The redshirt freshman also picked up wins over Jason McCroskey of Wyoming (10-3 decision), Brad Dieckhaus of Northern Illinois (10-7 decision), Luke Rebertus of Navy (4-1 decision) and seven seed Chris Perry of Oklahoma State (7-1 decision). His first two losses came to nine seed and eventual national champion Quentin Wright of Penn State (8-4 decision) and five seed Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming (11-9 decision).

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