A big weekend at Williams Arena looms ahead for the University of Minnesota wrestling team. The Gophers welcome the rest of the Big Ten conference to Minneapolis for one of the most anticipated conference tournaments in college wrestling.
Previewing the Tournament
Minnesota is set to host the Big Ten Championships for the first time in 2008, when the team finished in second place with 112.5 team points. Considered a mini-NCAA tournament because of the stiff competition, the tournament will feature nine of Flowrestlings top-ranked grapplers.
The Gophers are one of only five teams to have wrestlers seeded at all ten weight classes. The other four schools include Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State.
Gable Steveson is the Gophers highest seed as the top-ranked grappler at heavyweight. Third-seed Sean Russell, fourth-seed Tommy Thorn, and fifth-seed Devin Skatzka round out the top-five seeds for the Gophers.
Gophers attending the Big Ten Championships are encouraged to leave extra time to travel to Williams Arena as well as use the lightrail or other forms of public transit due to heavy traffic throughout the weekend.
In addition to wrestling, the university will also be hosting men’s hockey, women’s hockey, and swimming. For more information please click here.
Three of the Gophers starters, and highly ranked wrestlers nationally, transferred to the university in the past two seasons. 157-pound Steve Bleise joined the Maroon and Gold last season while 125-pound Sean Russell and 174-pound Devin Skatzka are in their first seasons in Minneapolis.
All three notched over 15 victories this season and are ranked at least in the top-13 by all major polling outlets.
Bleise has over 35 victories as a Gopher while Russell and Skatzka both won 22 times this season.
Finishing Up Business
Five Gophers will wrestle in Minneapolis for the final time as graduating seniors. The group includes Sean Russell, Ethan Lizak, Tommy Thorn, Steve Bleise, and Brandon Krone.
Lizak, Thorn, and Krone have been in Minneapolis since they were freshman five years ago while Bleise and Russell transferred to the Gophers within the past two years. All five are previous NCAA qualifiers.
None of the five have won Big Ten or NCAA Championship yet in their career, with Lizak the closest as a finalist at both tournaments in his career. Thorn and Russell were both 2017 All-Americans with Lizak having two All-Americans to his name.
Gable Steveson has already had a historic season even before the postseason has begun. Steveson, an Apple Valley High School graduate, is 27-0 after beginning his career with championships at the Daktronics Open and the Bison Open.
Steveson’s first dual victory in a Minnesota singlet came with his defeat of current No.2 Derek White, White’s only loss this season.
Steveson has already passed career-best winning streaks from coaches Brandon Eggum and Zach Sanders while he is currently tied with Luke Becker. Steveson could be the first Gophers Big Ten Champion since Tony Nelson won in 2014.
The last time….
While the Gophers last hosted the tournament in 2008, they last won a Big Ten team title in 2007 with 156 team points. The last Big Ten individual champion was 133-pound Chris Dardanes in 2015.
For a full breakdown of the last time the Gophers got a champion or finalist at the various weight classes, check below:
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Jayson Ness (2007)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Ethan Lizak (2018)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Chris Dardanes (2015)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Chris Dardanes (2015)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Michael Thorn (2010)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Michael Thorn (2011)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Dylan Ness (2013)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Dylan Ness (2013)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: CP Schlatter (2007)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Dylan Ness (2015)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Jacob Volkmann (2004)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Matt Nagel (2006)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Brad Gibson (1994 at 177-pounds)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist:Logan Storley (2012)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Kevin Steinhaus (2012)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Brett Pfarr (2015)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Damion Hahn (1997)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Scott Schiller (2013)
Last Minnesota Big Ten Champion: Tony Nelson (2014)
Last Minnesota Big Ten finalist: Tony Nelson (2014)