With the University of Minnesota wrestling team prepping for the Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Mich., Volunteer Assistant Coach Zach Sanders along with Minnesota Storm wrestler Hayden Zillmer earned gold medals at Cerro Pelado, an open freestyle tournament, in Havana, Cuba.
Sanders, who was a four-time All-American for the Golden Gophers, finished the tournament with a perfect 3-0 record. He took down opponents from Canada, United State of America and Cuba.
Sanders would knock out the No. 3, No. 1, and No. 8 seed in the tournament to earn the gold medal.
It began with an 8-1 decision over Aso Palani of Canada, using great pace to move on to the semifinals. The Minnesota native then took on fellow American Eddie Kilimara of the USA. Sanders and Klimara felt each other out, but Sanders eventually opened up the scoring. He would go on to earn five takedowns in the match, convincingly taking the win, 10-0.
In the finals, Sanders fell behind early after being forced out by Alexei Alvares of Cuba, and would trail after the first three minutes, 1-0. Sanders came out in the final period and cranked up the pace. He would earn three takedowns in the final three minutes, and took the win and the gold, 6-1.
Zillmer had a slightly different route to gold. He dropped his first bout to Reinie Salas of Cuba in a tight match, 5-4. Due to the 97-kilogram bracket being in a pool format, Zillmer was still alive. He won the final two bouts in the pool, finishing with a 2-1 record to earn his way into the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Zillmer was faced with Erik Thiele, the 2016 Junior World silver medalist. Zillmer would go on to defeat Thiele, 6-5 in an exciting match where Zillmer used a takedown with just 22-seconds left to earn the victory and a place in the finals on Thursday.
Zillmer came up big against Ty Walz, a fellow USA wrestler, who he had wrestled in the third round of the qualifying matches. Like the qualifying match, Zillmer jumped out to a lead and held on. Zillmer went on to win the match using one takedown followed by a pair of turns, making the final score 6-0.
Minnesota Storm also had Daniel Deshazer take part in the tournament at 61-kilograms. Deshazer won his first match by tech, 12-2, but then fell in the quarterfinal matchup with Dabian Quintana of Cuba, 5-1.
Zach Sanders will return to the United States to rejoin the team in preparation for the Big Ten Championships on March 3-4. Meanwhile, four-time All-American Dylan Ness is gearing up for a tournament in the Ukraine, which will take place on Feb. 24 and 25. Two other Gopher alumni will take part in an upcoming wrestling tournament in Denmark.
Zach Sanders (3-0, Gold)
Quarters: Zach Sanders fall (3:23) Aso Palani (Canada)
Semis: Zach Sanders tech Eddie Kilimara (USA), 10-0
Finals: Zach Sanders over Alexei Alvares (Cuba), 6-1
Daniel Deshazer (1-1, DNP)
Qualifier: Daniel Deshazer over Ramzan Awtaew (Germany), 12-2
Quarters: Dabian Quintana (Cuba) over Daniel Deshazer, 5-1
Hayden Zillmer (4-1, Gold)
Rnd 1: Reinie Salas (Cuba) over Hayden Zillmer, 5-4
Rnd 2: Hayden Zillmer over Micah Burak (USA), 10-0
Rnd 3: Hayden Zillmer over Ty Walz (USA), 5-2
Semis: Hayden Zillmer over Erik Thiele (Germany), 6-5
Finals: Hayden Zillmer over Ty Walz (USA), 6-0