The road to qualify for the U.S. team that will compete in Rio next summer is long and arduous, particularly for wrestlers. Last weekend’s Bill Farrell International Open in New York City was the first of several tests Olympic hopefuls will endure over the course of the next nine months. Among those in the field last weekend were eight Gopher alumni with aspirations to trade Maroon and Gold singlets for Red, White and Blue.
Four-time All-American Zach Sanders (2019-12) led the way for the University of Minnesota contingent with a runner-up finish in freestyle at 57 kilograms. Sanders went 4-1 in the event, collecting victories over Jered Cortez, Rei Kuwaki, Frank Perrelli and Ali Naser before falling to Tyler Graff in the finals.
Another four-timer (2011-14) and two-time national champion (’12, ’13) Tony Nelson also placed, claiming third in freestyle at 125 kilograms. Nelson’s path included victories over Korey Jarvis and Tyrell Fortune before dropping his semifinal match against Nick Gwiazdowski. Nelson rebounded to defeat Matthew Meuleners and then added a second victory over Fortune to claim third.
Dylan Ness, a four-time All-American as well (2012-15), led a group of four Gophers in New York who graduated last spring. Competing in Greco at 66 kilograms, Ness fell in his first match to eventual tournament champion Ji Hyun Jang, before reeling off three victories in wrestlebacks, the first two by tech fall. A loss to Alejandro Sancho ended Ness’ day at 3-2.
In addition to Ness, the other Gophers from last season’s roster competing in the Open were Chris Dardanes (freestyle, 65 kilograms), Nick Dardanes (freestyle, 65 kilograms) and Scott Schiller (freestyle, 97 kilograms). All finished the tournament 1-2.
Rounding out the group of alums were Alec Ortiz (Greco, 75 kilograms) and Jayson Ness (freestyle, 65 kilograms). Both finished the tournament 1-2.
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