Ethan Lizak’s march through wrestlebacks highlighted Minnesota’s second day at the NCAA Championships
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ethan Lizak will once again stand on the podium at the NCAA Championships, the second straight year Minnesota’s 125-pounder has finished his season as an All-American. That’s where the similarities end between his last two NCAA tournament appearances.
After going undefeated for the first two days last year and reaching the national title bout, Lizak suffered a heart-breaking, 4-2 overtime defeat in the second round of this year’s tournament. That defeat put him on a path that would demand he win three matches in the span of about nine hours on Friday if he wanted to once again be an All-American. He did exactly that, capping his long journey back to the podium with a convincing 16-0 tech fall over No. 6 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) that ended in the second period.
“There’s always really tough guys to wrestle (at the NCAA tournament), so it’s a big accomplishment to become an All-American,” said Lizak. “The wrestlebacks are tough because everyone is fighting to become an All-American. Every match is rough. Everyone is giving it their all. It’s just a great honor to be an All-American.”
Lizak’s win over Piccininni was the crescendo of a three-match run that began with a decision in one of the very first matches of the day and continued with a 17-6 major decision over Drew Mattin (Michigan). With a podium finish secured, eighth-seeded Lizak provided a fitting encore to his win tech fall victory, pinning No. 13 Zeke Moisey in the first period to advance deeper into the bracket. Lizak is now guaranteed at least a sixth-place finish and will see a familiar face in his attempt to move further when he wrestles top-seed and defending national champ, Darian Cruz (Lehigh) on Saturday morning. Cruz knocked off Lizak, 6-3, in last year’s final.
Lizak continued an impressive streak for Gopher Wrestling, giving the program at least one All-American for the 33rd consecutive season. Lizak became Minnesota’s 53rd multiple-time All-American is the process.
“You can tell he’s in a good spot. He’s always got a smile on his face, but he’s also been very focused. He’s wrestling really well,” said Head Coach Brandon Eggum. “He’s a big 125-pounder. As the day goes on, you see he’s tough to wrestle. Picking up a pin there at the end for the team was great. He’s been doing a lot for the team and you want to continue moving forward with him and keep that momentum going.”
Two other Gophers reached what is affectionately known as the “blood round” in wrestling, the round of consolation matches where the winners are All-Americans and the losers have their tournaments end one match short of that honor. This is the round in which Lizak defeated Piccininni earlier in the evening.
After falling to the top seed at 133 pounds on Thursday evening, No. 16 Mitch McKee rallied to pick up a pair of wins, including a lopsided 12-2 major decision over Zach Sherman (North Carolina), before losing a tight match to sixth-seeded Scott Parker (Lehigh), 3-1. McKee and Parker scrambled through the match’s final seconds, and McKee appeared to potentially have a takedown as time expired. No takedown was called on the mat and, after video review, that call was upheld. McKee, a true sophomore, finished one match shy of All-America status for the second straight year.
The same fate awaited senior Nick Wanzek who, like McKee, also fell in the blood round at last year’s NCAA tournament. Wanzek, the No. 12 seed at 165 pounds, fell to the fifth seed last night but rebounded on Friday for two victories. The second of those came down to the riding time point, which Wanzek earned after riding out No. 13 Te’shan Campbell (Ohio State) in the second period of their match, a contest Wanzek won, 4-3. Wanzek was pinned in his blood round match, ending his tournament.
Fellow senior Jake Short, at 157 pounds, picked up a 3-1 win over No. 14 Andrew Crone on Friday before falling to Paul Fox (Stanford) in the third round of consolation matches. Steve Bleise also wrestled for Minnesota on Friday, falling 9-7 in overtime of his opening match.
“Today was tough for those guys,” Eggum said of seniors Short and Wanzek. “They’ve done a lot for our program – not just as wrestlers, but as great people and great leaders. My heart goes out for them. You see your seniors go out, your leaders, and you want them to feel that excitement. But this is an extremely tough tournament. It’s a meat-grinder. There’s nothing to hang their heads about. They wrestled with a lot of effort and fight. That’s something they should always be proud of.
“Those are two great people. They’ve done a lot for our program. I can’t say enough good things about them. I’m so proud of them,” added Eggum.
A full listing of match-by-match results is below.
The Gophers have on more set of matches this season, Session V here in Cleveland, which begins at 10 a.m. Central on Saturday morning. Minnesota enters that session in 18th place, with 24 team points.
Minnesota Results After Session 4
125 Ethan Lizak (31-6) scored 14.50 team points.
Champ. Round 1 – Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 won by major decision over Barlow McGhee (Missouri) 15-13 (MD 11-0)
Champ. Round 2 – Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State) 22-6 won in sudden victory – 1 over Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 (SV-1 4-2)
Cons. Round 2 – Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 won by decision over Brock Hudkins (Northern Illinois) 18-12 (Dec 7-2)
Cons. Round 3 – Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 won by major decision over Drew Mattin (Michigan) 21-14 (MD 17-6)
Cons. Round 4 – Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 won by tech fall over Nicholas Piccininni (Oklahoma State) 24-5 (TF-1.5 4:19 (16-0))
Cons. Round 5 – Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) 31-6 won by fall over Zeke Moisey (West Virginia) 26-11 (Fall 1:43)
133 Mitch McKee (21-8) scored 3.00 team points. DNP
Champ. Round 1 – Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 21-8 won by decision over Josh Finesilver (Duke) 20-20 (Dec 11-6)
Champ. Round 2 – Seth Gross (South Dakota State) 28-1 won by major decision over Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 21-8 (MD 13-5)
Cons. Round 2 – Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 21-8 won by major decision over Zachary Sherman (North Carolina) 16-19 (MD 12-2)
Cons. Round 3 – Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 21-8 won by decision over Sean Nickell (CSU Bakersfield) 24-12 (Dec 12-5)
Cons. Round 4 – Scott Parker (Lehigh) 21-5 won by decision over Mitch McKee (Minnesota) 21-8 (Dec 3-1)
141 Thomas Thorn (18-13) scored 0.00 team points. DNP
Champ. Round 1 – Mason Smith (Central Michigan) 32-7 won by decision over Thomas Thorn (Minnesota) 18-13 (Dec 3-0)
Cons. Round 1 – Chad Red (Nebraska) 25-11 won by decision over Thomas Thorn (Minnesota) 18-13 (Dec 8-3)
149 Steve Bleise (20-9) scored 1.50 team points. DNP
Prelim – Steve Bleise (Minnesota) 20-9 won by decision over Eleazar Deluca (Rutgers) 14-14 (Dec 5-3)
Champ. Round 1 – Grant Leeth (Missouri) 26-3 won by decision over Steve Bleise (Minnesota) 20-9 (Dec 11-7)
Cons. Round 1 – Steve Bleise (Minnesota) 20-9 won by decision over Cole Martin (Wisconsin) 17-14 (Dec 6-3)
Cons. Round 2 – Jarrett Degen (Iowa State) 23-11 won in sudden victory – 1 over Steve Bleise (Minnesota) 20-9 (SV-1 9-7)
157 Jake Short (18-13) scored 1.00 team points. DNP
Champ. Round 1 – Joshua Shields (Arizona State) 33-4 won by decision over Jake Short (Minnesota) 18-13 (Dec 4-3)
Cons. Round 1 – Jake Short (Minnesota) 18-13 won by decision over Justin Staudenmayer (Brown) 22-12 (Dec 5-2)
Cons. Round 2 – Jake Short (Minnesota) 18-13 won by decision over Andrew Crone (Wisconsin) 28-12 (Dec 3-1)
Cons. Round 3 – Paul Fox (Stanford) 23-9 won by decision over Jake Short (Minnesota) 18-13 (Dec 10-7)
165 Nicholas Wanzek (25-12) scored 4.00 team points. DNP
Champ. Round 1 – Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) 25-12 won by fall over Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado) 23-12 (Fall 6:55)
Champ. Round 2 – Alex Marinelli (Iowa) 19-4 won by fall over Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) 25-12 (Fall 6:15)
Cons. Round 2 – Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) 25-12 won by decision over Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley) 26-9 (Dec 6-4)
Cons. Round 3 – Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) 25-12 won by decision over Te`shan Campbell (Ohio State) 19-12 (Dec 4-3)
Cons. Round 4 – Evan Wick (Wisconsin) 27-7 won by fall over Nicholas Wanzek (Minnesota) 25-12 (Fall 3:17)
184 Brandon Krone (12-10) scored 1.00 team points. DNP
Prelim – Brandon Krone (Minnesota) 12-10 won by decision over Alan Clothier (Appalachian State) 27-11 (Dec 10-6)
Champ. Round 1 – Domenic Abounader (Michigan) 26-6 won by decision over Brandon Krone (Minnesota) 12-10 (Dec 4-0)
Cons. Round 1 – Bryce Carr (Chattanooga) 29-7 won by decision over Brandon Krone (Minnesota) 12-10 (Dec 7-1)
Saturday, Session 5 (10 a.m. Central) Matchups:
– 125 Cons. Semi – #8 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) vs #1 Darian Cruz (Lehigh)