As freestyle season is in full swing, the Gophers, along with the Regional Training Center wrestlers, currently sit seven in the top-10 of TheMat.com’s U.S. Senior men’s freestyle rankings.
At 57-kilograms, current assistant coach Zach Sanders ranks at No. 6. Sanders and has already made headlines with his freestyle wrestling in Cuba at the Cerro Pelado tournament where he earned a gold medal. Sanders was a four-time All-American for the Golden Gophers and looks to make his mark in Las Vegas next week at the U.S. Open.
Current Gopher Mitch McKee enters the top-10 at 61-kilograms. McKee holds a strong freestyle reputation at the junior level, winning a silver medal at the World Championships back in August in Finland along with two U.S. National Championships. McKee is also a two-time NCAA qualifier, finishing both trips in the blood round.
Another alumnus of the Minnesota wrestling program slots in at No. 8 in the 70-kilogram rankings. Dylan Ness has competed in numerous freestyle events this year and looks to make his mark at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas next weekend. Ness was a four-time All-American for the Gophers, making two NCAA finals, one at 149-pounds and one at 157-pounds. Ness was also a Big Ten Champion his freshman season at 149-pounds.
The first of two Minnesota Storm members to appear in the rankings, Joe Rau wrestles at 86-kilograms where he is ranked at No. 7. Rau, who wrestled at Elmhurst College, was a 2016 U.S. Open Champion and won the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016.
Hayden Zillmer has climbed the ladder in the 97-kilogram rankings in recent months, now sitting at No. 3. The Minnesota Storm member won a gold medal alongside Sanders in Cuba earlier this year. Zillmer also competed at the World Cup in Iowa City just a few weeks ago, where he helped Team USA win the gold for the first time in 15 years.
The Gophers final two ranked wrestlers are at 125-kilograms. An NCAA Champion in both 2012 and 2013, Tony Nelson now sits at No. 3 in the latest rankings. Nelson was a four-time All-American for the Golden Gophers and finished his collegiate career with a record of 131-16. His 131 wins are ninth-best in program history.
Gable Steveson will move into uncharted territory with his debut at the Senior level. At just 17 years of age, Steveson enters the U.S. Freestyle rankings at No. 6. The four-time Minnesota High School champion is set to enter his freshman season in 2018-19 in Minneapolis. Steveson has won three world championships in freestyle wrestling, including one as a junior and two as a cadet.