Gophers Send Three To Quarters as Day One Wraps at NCAAs

TULSA, Okla. – The University of Minnesota wrestling program closed out a solid first day at the NCAA Championships as they currently sit in fourth place in the team race with 16.5 points.

Minnesota finished the opening two sessions with a total of three quarter-finalists and seven grapplers still alive in the tournament.

Aaron Nagao was the first Gopher to punch his ticket to the quarterfinals after an impressive showing in his first career NCAA tournament appearance. Nagao rolled to an 8-0 major decision over Bucknell’s Kurtis Phipps before pinning Pittsburgh’s Micky Phillippi in the first period of his second round match. Nagao now faces a Big Ten finals rematch against Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young in tomorrow morning’s session.

Bailee O’Reilly followed that up with two gritty performances in his own right, defeating Penn’s Nick Incontrera by a 5-3 decision before knocking off Illinois’ Edmond Ruth for the third time this season by a score of 4-1. O’Reilly is now slated to face top-seeded Carter Starocci of Penn State tomorrow morning.

Isaiah Salazar dominated both of his Thursday matches en route to this quarterfinals birth. He defeated South Dakota State’s Cade King in the first round with a 3-0 decision, then handled Drexel’s Brian Bonino by major decision, finding his offense through multiple takedowns and turns. Salazar now looks ahead to a quarterfinal bout against Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen.

Patrick McKee opened his tournament up with a dominant 12-3 major decision over Harvard’s Diego Sotelo, attacking early and often on the feet on his way to five takedowns in the bout. However, he would fall in the second round to Virginia Tech’s Eddie Ventresca after surrendering the winning takedown late in the third period.

Jake Bergeland got off to a hot start in the Thursday morning session after he upset Oklahoma State’s Carter Young by A 5-0 decision. In his second round matchup, Bergeland would fall to Nebraska’s Brock Hardy as a pair of Hardy takedowns were the difference in the match.

Michael Blockhus earned a gritty win over Oklahoma State’s Victor Voinovich via 3-2 decision, with an early takedown from Blockhus leading him to victory. He then faced Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas in yet another tight contest, but Thomas would walk away with the win after securing an overtime takedown.

Andrew Sparks fell in his first match of the tournament against returning national finalist Quincy Monday (Princeton), but battled back against Oklahoma’s Gerrit Nijenhuis in a 12-3 win to stay alive for day two of the tournament.

Garrett Joles won his pigtail bout to open the tournament, but would fall in his next two matches to put an end to his season. Michial Foy went 0-2 on the day and was also eliminated at 197 pounds.

Action will resume Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. CST with quarterfinals on ESPNU, before the semifinals begin in the evening session at 6:00 p.m. CST on ESPN. Both sessions will carry out two rounds of consolations.

Fans can also follow along to live match-by-match updates by following out Twitter at @GopherWrestling.

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