13 current and former Gophers will compete across the junior- and senior-level ASICS U.S. Open Wrestling Championships this weekend
A heavy contingent of current and former Gophers will be on the mat this weekend in Las Vegas as part of both the ASICS U.S. Senior Open and the Junior National Championships-UWW Age Group. In all, Minnesota will be represented by 13 current student-athletes and alumni, the latest strong showing for a program with a history of producing national-level talent.
Six current Gophers will be in the field for the junior freestyle event. Among this half-dozen, two earned varsity letters this year. Ethan Lizak, coming off a true freshman season in which he placed at both Midlands and the Big Ten Championships en route to qualifying for the NCAA Championships, will compete at 55 kilograms (121 lbs.). Chris Pfarr, who appeared in several duals early this past season in place of injured Scott Schiller, will compete at 84 kilograms (185 lbs.).
Joining Lizak and Pfarr will be four Minnesota freshmen who redshirted this past season. After going 14-6 in open tournaments and winning the Wisconsin Open title, Skyler Petry will join Lizak at 55 kilograms. Steve Polakowski, the only Gopher to win tournament titles at two weights this season (Daktronics Open at 125; Wisconsin Open at 133), will be in the field at 60 kilograms (132 lbs.). After leading all redshirting Gophers with 32 wins and three open tournament titles, Tommy Thorn will be competing at 63 kilograms (139 lbs.). Colin Carr, a five-time place winner in open tournaments during his redshirt season, will wrestle at 79 kilograms (174 lbs.).
Not to be outdone by six current Gophers filling the junior field, seven former Gophers appear across the senior field, five in freestyle and two in Greco. Those five freestyle competitors all currently serve on the Gopher Wrestling staff as well.
Volunteer Assistant Coach Jayson Ness, who had not competed since winning the 2010 NCAA national title before dominating his weight class at last weekend’s Phil Portuese Northeast Regional, will be in the 65 kilogram (143 lbs.) bracket. Coming off a fourth-place performance in the Northeast Regional, grad assistant Joe Nord will compete at 97 kilograms (213 lbs.). Three of Nord’s fellow grad assistants round out the contingent of former Gophers competing in freestyle. Less than two weeks removed from a gold medal performance in the Pan-Am Championships in Chile, Dustin Schlatter will take on the 70 kilogram (154 lbs.) field. Zach Sanders, who earned a silver medal in Chile, will wrestle at 57 kilograms (125 lbs). Rounding out this quintet is two-time NCAA champ and four-time All-American Tony Nelson, who will wrestle at 125 kilograms (275 lbs.).
Two other former Gophers will showcase their Greco skills this weekend. Both Pat Smith and Alec Ortiz will wrestle at 70 kilograms this weekend. Smith, who was on the Gopher roster last season, dominated the field at the Pan-Am Championships while down in Chile with Schlatter and Sanders, earning his first career Pan Am title.
All 13 of these competitors will start their tournaments on Friday, with preliminary matches for junior freestyle, senior freestyle and senior Greco-Roman all getting underway at 11 a.m. CT from the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas. A recap of results from the weekend will be available on GopherSports.com. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook and Twitter for updates at different points of the championships and for all your Gopher Wrestling news.