Gophers Ready For Big Tens

The calendar turned to March earlier this week, the time of year when college wrestlers enter the sport’s annual proving grounds – conference and national tournaments. For Minnesota’s starting 10, the first of the two biggest tests of the season starts this Saturday in Iowa City at the 2016 Big Ten Championships.

Just as it did throughout the regular season, Minnesota brings a wealth of youth to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for this year’s tournament. None of the Gophers competing this weekend have wrestled in the tournament more than once during their respective careers.

Minnesota GophersHalf of the wrestlers in the lineup will be making their second career appearance at Big Tens, with just two returning at the same weight at which they competed in their previous appearance.

Jake Short returns at 149 pounds after an injury ended his tournament last season. Short was wrestling Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) at last year’s event when a leg injury forced him to default the match. He returns this year with a national ranking for the first time in his career and the eighth seed at 149.

After finishing fifth at Big Tens last year, Michael Kroells went on to earn All-America status at NCAAs in his first season as the Gophers’ full-time starting heavyweight. Heading into this year’s competition, Kroells is seeded fifth, matching his finish in 2015.

Wrestling at 184 pounds last year, Brett Pfarr marched to the finals before falling to Dominic Abounader (Michigan). Pfarr will look to reach the final match again, but this year at 197. Pfarr is seeded second at his weight, behind only Morgan McIntosh (Penn State), who handed Pfarr one of his two losses this year – a 3-2 decision in the finals at the Southern Scuffle.

Up at 174 pounds from 165, Nick Wanzek is seeded seventh for the conference tournament. Wanzek recently picked up a big win when he knocked off then-No. 4 Zac Brunson (Illinois), his first career victory over a top-five opponent. That win was part of a run during which Wanzek has won seven of his past nine matches leading into this weekend.

After not competing in last year’s event after a shoulder injury took him out of action for nearly two months, Sam Brancale returns to the Big Ten tournament at 133 pounds, up from the 125-pound class at which he wrestled in 2014.

Each wrestler in the other half of the Gopher lineup will be making his Big Ten tournament debut: Steve Polakowski, Tommy Thorn, Brandon Kingsley, Brandon Krone and Chris Pfarr. The lone seeded wrestler among that quintet is Thorn, who was seeded second at 141 pounds by the Big Ten coaches.

The Big Ten earned 71 qualifier allocations for the NCAA Championships, more than any other conference. Every weight class will automatically qualify its top-six finishers. At 149, 165 and 197 pounds will automatically qualify six wrestlers; 125, 141, 157, 184 and 285 pounds will send seven, and; 133 and 174 will put nine wrestlers into the NCAA field. For a full listing of the NCAA qualifier allocations, click here.

Between BTN Plus and the Big Ten Network, every match of the 2016 Big Ten Championships can be seen live. All mats will be streamed live on BTN Plus through the tournament’s first three sessions – which includes all Saturday matches (beginning at 10 a.m. Central) and the first session on Sunday. Third- and fifth-place matches will also be streamed live on BTN Plus, while championship bouts will be broadcast on BTN beginning at 3 p.m. Central on Sunday.

Minnesota Match Notes (B1G)

Big Ten Wrestling Championships Brackets

In addition to BTN coverage, Gopher fans can find live updates from every Minnesota match throughout both days of the event by following Gopher Wrestling on Twitter. is your home for Gopher Wrestling news. In addition to catching up with the program on the website, be sure follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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