Gophers Head to St. Louis for 2021 NCAA Championships

The Golden Gophers travel to St. Louis, Mo., for the 2021 NCAA Championships. Competition begins on Thursday at 10 a.m. and continues through the title matches on Saturday night at 6 p.m. The ESPN family of networks and ESPN3 will provide coverage of all seven sessions.

First Things First

  • Nine Gophers have qualified for the 2021 NCAA Championships, the most since 2017
  • Eight of Minnesota’s nine wrestlers are participating in their first national tournament
  • Gable Steveson is the two-time Big Ten Champion and seeded first at heavyweight. He has not lost since the 2019 semifinals (29 wins in a row)
  • Steveson, Michael Blockhus, Brayton Lee, Patrick McKee, and Owen Webster were 2020 NCAA qualifiers

NCAA Division I National Championships
Thu-Sat, Mar 18-20 – St. Louis, MO
Brackets | Qualifiers | Watch | Trackwrestling | WrestleStat

Nine Qualify for NCAAs
The Gophers will send nine wrestlers to the 2021 NCAA Championships, its highest total since 2017. Junior Gable Steveson is the lone Gopher with national tournament experience after his third-place performance in 2019. Patrick McKee, Michael Blockhus, Brayton Lee, and Owen Webster were 2020 qualifiers before the championships were canceled.

Qualifiers by School
10 – Iowa, Lehigh, Missouri
9 – Minnesota, Navy, NC State, Nebraska, Penn State

Steveson Wins Title; Gophers Place Fifth
Gable Steveson’s 12-4 major decision against No. 2 seed Mason Parris of Michigan sealed his second straight Big Ten heavyweight title. Steveson was the first Gopher since Mack Reiter in 2005 to be named Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships. The Gophers finished fifth as a team. Sophomore Brayton Lee improved on his fourth-place showing last year with a third-place finish at 157. Michael Blockhus and Jake Allar improved on their seeds with fourth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively.

NCAA Title History
Minnesota ranks sixth in NCAA history with three national titles. 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Gophers’ first NCAA Championship team, which was the first and only program with 10 All-Americans. Minnesota added a second title in 2002 led by individual champions Jared Lawrence and Luke Becker. The Gophers earned a third crown in 2007 led by heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.

NCAA Titles since 2001

  • Penn State: 8
  • Oklahoma State: 4
  • Minnesota: 3
  • Iowa: 3
  • Ohio State: 1

Heavyweight U
Gable Steveson is hoping to join the ranks of Gopher national champion heavyweights. Leonard Levy and Verne Gagne won titles in 1941 and 1949, respectively. Since 2000, Minnesota has a nation-best three heavyweight champions in Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad, and Tony Nelson.

NCAA Heavyweight Champions since 2000
Minnesota (5): Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad (2), Tony Nelson (2)
Ohio State (5): Tommy Rowlands (2), Kyle Snyder (3)
NC State (2): Nick Gwiazdowski (2)
Iowa (1): Steve Mocco
Iowa State (1): David Zabriskie
Illinois (1): John Lockhart
Lehigh (1): Zachery Rey
Oklahoma State (1): Steve Mocco
Penn State (1): Anthony Cassar
Missouri (1): Mark Ellis
Northwestern (1): Dustin Fox

Big Ten Championship Heavyweight Titles since 1999
Minnesota 11
Ohio State 5
Iowa 4
Northwestern 2
Penn State 1

Meet Me In St. Louis
This is the ninth time that St. Louis has hosted the NCAA Championships since 2000. The Gophers have finished in the top 10 in seven of the eight previous tournaments. Minnesota finished in third place behind Iowa and Iowa State in 2000 and runner-up behind Penn State in 2012. Brock Lesnar (2000), Damion Hahn (2004), and Tony Nelson (2012) have won national titles in St. Louis.

History Revisited
The 2020-21 season marks the 20th anniversary of Minnesota’s first NCAA Championship team. The 2001 Golden Gophers were the first and only team to win a national title with 10 All-Americans. Head assistant coach Luke Becker was a junior on the team and placed fourth at 157 pounds. He’d win a national title a year later. Head coach Brandon Eggum served as strength coordinator and has been on the staff ever since. Visit GopherSports.com/2001 to view BTN’s feature on the team.

Regular Season Rewind
With a mix of veterans and newcomers, the Gopher wrestling team capped a successful regular season with five straight wins and a 7-2 record. It was the team’s school record 15th straight season with a winning dual record. Gable Steveson led the Gophers with a perfect 9-0 record, while true freshman Andrew Sparks finished with an 8-1 mark. Minnesota and Ohio State were the only league schools to compete in all nine matches.

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