ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The 2023 Big Ten Championships came to a close on Sunday afternoon as Minnesota came away with a sixth-place finish and a total of seven automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournament in two weeks.
The Gophers walked away with two Big Ten silver medalists on the day, as finalists Aaron Nagao and Michael Blockhus both fell in narrow decisions to the top seeds of their respective brackets.
Nagao competed first at 133 pounds, where he fell in a 5-2 decision loss to Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State). Bravo-Young was able to convert on a pair of takedowns to jump out to a 4-1 lead after two periods. Nagao chose top for the final frame and was able to collect the riding time point, but couldn’t get a turn and dropped the bout.
The 149-pound finals was an action-packed affair between Blockhus and Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso, as the two traded takedowns throughout the match to push the score to 5-5 at the end of regulation. In sudden victory, it was Blockhus who initiated the first attack on a single-leg attempt, but Sasso was able to scramble out and spin behind for the score.
Other notable performances included Isaiah Salazar and Bailee O’Reilly, who both walked away with fourth-place finishes at the tournament. O’Reilly knocked off Iowa’s Nelson Brands via sudden victory in the consolation quarterfinals before dropping to Ohio State’s Ethan Smith in the bronze medal match. Salazar rolled to a 5-0 decision over Brian Soldano of Rutgers but would then medically forfeit out of his last match.
Patrick McKee lost a pair of close matches to end up with sixth place at 125 pounds, while Jake Bergeland and Michial Foy each took eighth place in their brackets.
Andrew Sparks finished the tournament with a ninth-place finish, while Garrett Joles placed 10th at heavyweight, with both guys needing an at-large bid alongside Brayton Lee.
The Maroon & Gold will now look ahead to the NCAA Championships on March 16-18 in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The NCAA is set to announce at-large bids for the national tournament early next week before brackets will be announced on the NCAA Selection Show on Wednesday evening.