Five Gophers remain in the Big Ten Championships field following a marathon opening day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday. Of those five, three have already clinched high enough finishes to guarantee their spots in the NCAA Championships. A fourth, Nick Wanzek, will wrestle for an automatic berth tomorrow. As a team, Minnesota finished the first day of the tournament in ninth place.
The three Minnesota wrestlers who punched their tickets to New York City earlier today will begin Sunday wrestling in the consolation semifinals, needing wins to advance to third-place matches. The three highest-seeded Gophers going into the tournament make up this trio: Tommy Thorn, Brett Pfarr and Michael Kroells.
After a 10-2 major decision in his opening match at 141 pounds, Thorn was upset by seventh-seeded Danny Sabatello (Purdue) in the quarterfinals and needed a pair of victories in wrestlebacks to make it to Sunday. In the Round of 12, Thorn knocked off Brody Grothus (Iowa) for the second time this season before avenging a January loss to Anthony Abidin (Nebraska) to secure his spot in the tournament’s second day.
At 197 pounds, Brett Pfarr cruised to the semifinals with a pair of major decisions during which he allowed his opponents to score just a single point combined. Following those dominant victories, Pfarr found himself tied 1-1 and heading to sudden victory overtime against fellow top-five wrestler Nathan Burak (Iowa), who Pfarr had defeated in Iowa City six weeks ago. Burak leveled the season series against Pfarr with a takedown in the overtime period to win the match, 3-1, and send Pfarr to wrestlebacks tomorrow.
Heavyweight Michael Kroells was the last Gopher to start his Big Ten tournament after receiving an opening round bye. He made up for the lost time in his two matches. The first, a quarterfinal contest against Billy Smith (Rutgers), went through two overtime periods and two sets of tiebreakers without a winner. Riding time through the extra periods was needed to determine the victor, and a mere two-second advantage was enough for Kroells to advance. His semifinal match against Adam Coon (Michigan) also required two overtimes and two sets of tiebreakers, though a rideout by Coon in the final 30 seconds of tiebreakers gave him a 3-2 victory over Kroells.
Jake Short and Nick Wanzek are the other Gophers who will wrestle tomorrow. Short alternated wins and losses through four matches on Saturday, ultimately finding himself in tomorrow’s 149-pound, seventh-place contest. Wanzek had a 1-2 record on the day, falling in the Round of 12 in a one-point decision to Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin). While this would normally be the end of the tournament for a wrestler, the Big Ten has nine qualifier allocations for the NCAA Championships at 174 pounds. As a result, Wanzek wrestled Josh Snook (Maryland) in a qualifier semifinal in Saturday’s last match, a contest Wanzek won, 5-2. Wanzek will wrestle Mitch Sliga (Northwestern) tomorrow with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line. Wanzek defeated Sliga, 8-0, earlier Saturday.
The five other Gophers who wrestled in the tournament – Steve Polakowski, Sam Brancale, Brandon Kingsley, Brandon Krone and Chris Pfarr – were all eliminated from the field.
The final session of the 2016 Big Ten Championships, which will feature consolations semifinals and all placer matches, will begin Sunday at Noon Central. Championship bouts will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network beginning at 3 p.m., while all other matches will be streamed live on BTN Plus.
For fans that aren’t able to watch live, updates on every Minnesota match from the tournament’s closing session can be found by following Gopher Wrestling on Twitter.
Gophers Match-by-Match Results
125 – Steve Polakowski
Champ Rnd 1: Elijah Oliver (Indiana) dec Steve Polakowski, 4-3
Cons Rnd 1: Steve Polakowski maj dec Michael Beck (Maryland), 11-1
Round of 12: Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin) dec Steve Polakowski, 4-1
133 – Sam Brancale
Champ Rnd 1: Jordan Conway (Penn State) maj dec Sam Brancale, 12-3
Cons Rnd 1: Luke Welch (Purdue) dec (SV-1) Sam Brancale, 12-10
141 – Tommy Thorn
Champ Rnd 1: Tommy Thorn maj dec Mousa Jodeh (Illinois), 10-2
Quarters: Danny Sabatello (Purdue) dec Tommy Thorn, 11-6
Round of 12: Tommy Thorn dec Brody Grothus (Iowa), 7-5
Cons Quarters: Tommy Thorn dec Anthony Abidin (Nebraska), 8-5
149 – Jake Short
Champ Rnd 1: Jake Short dec Wade Hodges (Maryland), 11-5
Quarters: Zain Retherford (Penn State) maj dec Jake Short, 14-4
Round of 12: Jake Short fall (1:06) Andrew Crone (Wisconsin)
Cons Quarters: Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec Jake Short, 3-1
157 – Brandon Kingsley
Champ Rnd 1: Brandon Kingsley dec Lou Mascola (Maryland), 8-3
Quarters: Jason Nolf (Penn State) tech fall Brandon Kingsley, 20-5
Round of 12: TJ Ruschell (Wisconsin) dec Brandon Kingsley, 7-5
165 – Brandon Krone
Champ Rnd 1: Geno Morelli (Penn State) dec Brandon Krone, 6-2
Cons Rnd 1: Bye
Round of 12: Patrick Rhoads (Iowa) maj dec Brandon Krone, 15-7
174 – Nick Wanzek
Champ Rnd 1: Nick Wanzek maj dec Mitch Sliga (Northwestern), 8-0
Quarters: Alex Meyer (Iowa) tech fall Nick Wanzek, 15-0
Round of 12: Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) dec Nick Wanzek, 6-5
Qualifier (9th place) Semis: Nick Wanzek dec Josh Snook (Maryland), 5-2
184 – Chris Pfarr
Champ Rnd 1: Ryan Christensen (Wisconsin) dec Chris Pfarr, 4-1
Cons Rnd 1: Bye
Round of 12: Jeff Koepke (Illinois) dec Chris Pfarr, 11-5
197 – Brett Pfarr
Champ Rnd 1: Brett Pfarr maj dec Jacob Berkowitz (Northwestern), 9-0
Quarters: Brett Pfarr maj dec Hayden Hrymack (Rutgers), 13-1
Semis: Nathan Burak (Iowa) dec (SV-1) Brett Pfarr, 3-1
285 – Michael Kroells
Champ Rnd 1: Bye
Quarters: Michael Kroells dec (TB-2) Billy Smith (Rutgers), 3-3 (RT)
Semis: Adam Coon (Michigan) dec (TB-2) Michael Kroells, 3-2