Wrapping up the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships

One National Champion, Seven All-Americans and National Coach of the Year

What a year for the Minnesota wrestling team! Over the weekend the Golden Gophers finished runner-up at the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Mo. It was the best finish for the Maroon and Gold in three years (2011; 7th, 2010; 7th, 2009; 14th, 2008; 10th) since winning the title back in 2007.

Head coach J Robinson (388-129-4) was named the 2012 NWCA Coach of the Year following the championships. Robinson wraps up his 26th season as the commander and chief of the Golden Gophers and is only four wins away from becoming Minnesota’s all-time winningest coach, in the program.

Minnesota finished with a tournament high seven All-Americans at the championships. Champion Penn State and third place finisher Iowa left St. Louis with six All-Americans. As a conference, the Big Ten dominated the field of 330 student-athletes as six Big Ten schools finished in the top ten of the final standings (Ohio State; 5th, Illinois: 7th, and Northwestern; 9th ) and 34 All-Americans came from the Big Ten.

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Tony Nelson was crowned a national champion in the heavyweight division. Nelson finished the weekend a perfect 5-0 record and defeated the defending heavyweight champion Zach Rey from Lehigh. The two-time All-American ends the season with 25 consecutive wins. He is the first sophomore heavyweight to win a title and first Minnesota heavyweight to win a title since Cole Conrad (2007). Nelson is now one of 21 NCAA individual champions for the Gophers.

Redshirt freshman Dylan Ness picked up his first All-American honor en route to a second place finish at 149. Ness entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed and knocked off Oklahoma State’s Jamal Parks in the quarterfinals. The Bloomington, Minn., native recorded a 3-2 victory over the then 31-0 senior Cowyboy. Ness fell to Penn State’s Frank Molinaro in the championship (4-1 dec.), but battled with the senior who finished the season 33-0.

Senior Zach Sanders accomplished something in St. Louis that only six other Gopher wrestlers have done before. Sanders finished his career as a four-time All-American with a third place finish. It was his highest placement at the championships and he scored an overtime takedown against Cornell’s Frank Perrelli, to pick up the 6-4 win, which brought the Minnesota and Scottrade Center fans to their feet.

Sonny Yohn closed out his career with his third All-American honor. The Alamosa, Colo., native picked up a 4-1 win over Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez in the fifth place match. Yohn left it all out on the mat and wrestled very physical. The senior finishes his career with 111 wins in the Maroon and Gold, which puts him a tie for 25 on the all-time list.

Kevin Steinhaus placed fifth overall after defeating Ben Bennett of Central Michigan in his final consolation match. Steinhaus fell to Bennett earlier this season (2-1), but was the more dominate wrestler today with his 3-1 decision. The redshirt freshman is now a two-time All-American, after finishing seventh a year ago.

Redshirt freshman Chris Dardanes finished fourth at his first championships. Dardanes fell to Iowa’s Tony Ramos in the third place match, but had a come from behind win against Illinois Futrell, earlier in the morning. Down 7-1 at one point, Dardanes battled back to tie it up at 8-8. He would give up the escape to Futrell and quickly took him down in the inner circle and scored a pin with 31 seconds left. It was Dardanes first win over Futrell this season and it brought the entire Scottrade Center to their feet.

True Freshman Logan Storley wrapped his first championships with a sixth place finish. The Roslyn, S.D., native finishes his first year as a Golden Gopher with a record of 26-9. Being only a freshman he has gained some valuable experience that will be in his favor for three more years.