Both of Minnesota’s All-Americans finish their seasons with victories in the medal rounds
Minnesota wrapped up the 2015-16 season on Saturday afternoon following the penultimate session of the NCAA Championships. The team’s two All-Americans, Brett Pfarr and Michael Kroells, were the last two Gophers on the mat, each competing in the tournament’s medal rounds. Pfarr, a first-time All-American at 197 pounds, finished third, while Kroells, a two-time All-American heavyweight, finished seventh. Minnesota sits in 17th place in the team race following Session V, with 26 points. The team’s final placement will be updated following tonight’s session.
“We brought five guys to the tournament and we had two All-Americans. You have to be grateful you got those two All-Americans,” said head coach J Robinson. “But then you have to reflect on where we are and what we need to do. Obviously, we have a long way to go. We have to go back and we’re going to have to change some things. It’ll be an interesting spring.”
Pfarr wrestled twice in Saturday’s midday session, beginning with a consolation semifinal bout against Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), a match in which Pfarr built an early lead on a pair of first-period takedowns and never looked back, earning a 13-4 major decision, his third major of the tournament and team-best 18th on the season.
In the third-place match, Pfarr took on Nathan Burak (Iowa) for the third time this year, having split the first two matches with his fellow top-five wrestler. Much like their match at the Big Ten tournament, Saturday’s contest was a grind, with neither taking down the other. The difference was Pfarr’s ability to ride Burak in the second period, building up enough of an advantage to score the decisive point on riding time and take the match, 2-1. The win was Pfarr’s 40th of the year, the most for any Gopher since Jayson Ness posted 40 in the 2006-07 season.
In his lone match of the day, Kroells had the opportunity to avenge a second-round loss to Max Wessell (Lehigh) and level their season series at two wins a piece. Wessell picked up the match’s first takedown early in the opening frame, but would not score on Kroells again. The Gopher heavyweight hopped in front of Wessell, 3-2, with a takedown of his own late in the period and rode out Wessell in the second on his way to a 5-2 victory. Kroells seventh-place showing is a one-spot improvement from his first All-American finish last season. The win gave Kroells 35 for the season. Three Gophers – Pfarr, Kroells and Tommy Thorn – all won 35 or more matches this winter, the most for Minnesota since four wrestlers reached the mark in 2006-07.
The final whistle of Kroells’ match not only signified the end of that contest, it marked the end of the 107th season of Golden Gopher Wrestling. Minnesota will bring back virtually its entire roster next season, along with another infusion of young talent, as it navigates the road to next year’s NCAA Championships in St. Louis.