East Lansing, Mich. — The University of Minnesota wrestling team completed the first day of the Big Ten Championships in fifth place at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
“I think overall we wrestled well today,” head coach Brandon Eggum said. “Of course some guys could have wrestled better, but this is the Big Ten Championships, it really is as tough as the national tournament. There are a lot of ups and downs, and you just have to kind of ride through that and stay focused on the things you can control.”
The Gophers will have one finalist that will wrestle tomorrow. No. 5 seed Ethan Lizak will wrestle for the title against No. 3 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. The final will be Lizak’s first championship appearance at the Big Ten Championships.
“Lizak putting himself in the finals tomorrow gives him a really good opportunity,” Eggum said. “He has just been very aggressive and has just done a really good job out there. I’m really proud of how he is wrestling.”
Mitch McKee was nearly a finalist in the 133-pound bracket. He fell just short when he fell to Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the semifinals, 6-4 in sudden victory. The semifinal appearance is the second straight year McKee, a sophomore, was a semifinalist.
McKee will wrestle in the consolation semifinals tomorrow and will finish as high as third, or as low as sixth.
As the No. 8 seed, Brandon Krone found himself in a great position after the first day of competition. Krone won three matches, including a solid win over Mitch Bowman from Iowa. Krone’s only loss was to Bo Nickal of Penn State, who is in the finals of the 184-pound bracket.
Steve Bleise, Jake Short, and Nick Wanzek will all wrestle for seventh place tomorrow. Bleise and Short will wrestle Rutgers opponents, with Wanzek wrestling a Nebraska opponent. Bleise, the No. 9 seed, defeated Malik Amine of Michigan 6-2 with a huge throw in the first match of the day but finished the day 2-2. Short and Wanzek both finished 2-2 as well, with Short falling to No. 2 seed Jason Nolf in the championship bracket, and Wanzek falling to No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State in a wild 18-10 match in the championship bracket of 165.
Rylee Streifel put himself into a chance to automatically qualify for the 2018 NCAA Championships at 285. Streifel finished the day 2-2 and will wrestle Shawn Streck for a right to head to automatically qualify for the NCAAs.
Chris Pfarr was unable to finish his career as he, and many would have hoped. Pfarr suffered an injury in his first match of the day and was unable to compete in wrestle-backs, which likely finishes his career with an at-large bid being needed to make it to the NCAAs for the second straight year. Redshirt freshman Dylan Anderson finished his first appearance at the Big Ten Championships with an 0-2 record. Anderson wrestled at 197-pounds and lost in two competitive matches, 9-4 and 3-1.
At 141-pounds, Tommy Thorn finished 0-2 on day one and will wrestle in the ninth-place bracket tomorrow, looking to bolster his at-large resume for the NCAA Championships. Thorn’s opening loss came against Mike Carr, who made the finals of 141-pounds. His wrestle-back loss came against Ryan Diehl, who he has lost to two times in as many weeks.
The Gophers will return to action first thing tomorrow morning in East Lansing at the Breslin Center. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. (CT), with Session III beginning at 11:00 a.m. (CT). The final session is set to begin at 2:00 p.m. (CT) with no break in between.
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