Two Gophers Punch Tickets to B1G Finals as Day One Competition Wraps

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Day one of the 2023 Big Ten championships has wrapped inside Crisler Arena with the Gophers sending a pair of wrestlers to tomorrow’s finals, good for fifth place in the points standings.

A total of seven tickets have been punched for the NCAA Championships in two weeks for the Gophers by guaranteeing a finish within conference allocation. Two more wrestlers for the “U” will continue to battle for qualifying spots in tomorrow morning’s session.

133-pounder Aaron Nagao was the first to reach the finals for Minnesota after displaying one of the most impressive performances of the entire tournament on Saturday. After collecting a major decision in the opening round, Nagao knocked off third-seed Lucas Byrd (Illinois) in sudden victory by a score of 4-2.

Squaring off against Ohio State freshman in the semifinals, Nagao once again claimed victory in overtime fashion, coming back from an early 4-0 deficit to take a 6-4 win in the extra frame. The redshirt freshman is now slated to compete against defending national champion Roman Bravo-Young in tomorrow’s 133-pound finals.

Michael Blockhus followed that up with a finals berth of his own, rolling to a 6-2 decision win over Indiana’s Graham Rooks in the semifinals with two takedowns and over four minutes of riding time in the bout.

Prior to his semifinals match, Blockhus avenged a pair of earlier season losses, pinning Nebraska‘s Dayne Morton and defeating Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas by a 6-4 decision in sudden victory.

Patrick McKee, Bailee O’Reilly, and Isaiah Salazar also had an opportunity to reach the finals but would ultimately fall in their respective semi-final bouts.

McKee rolled to a 16-6 major decision in the opening round and pinned rival Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) in the second period of the quarterfinals, but he would drop a technical fall to top-seeded Spencer Lee of Iowa.

O’Reilly also fell to the top-seed in the semifinals, his bout against Penn State’s Carter Starocci, where he dropped an 8-2 decision. O’Reilly opened the tournament with a 9-0 major decision over Josh Otto (Wisconsin), then claimed his second victory of the season over Illinois’ Edmond Ruth prior to his semifinals loss.

Isaiah Salazar earned a pair of victories over Maryland’s Kevin Makosy and Michigan State’s Layne Malczewski in the morning session, but he dropped a tightly contested 3-2 bout to Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero.

Jake Bergeland and Michial Foy will compete in their seventh-place matches in tomorrow’s contest, while Andrew Sparks and Garrett Joles round out the remaining Gophers as they are still alive in the ninth-place brackets.

Minnesota’s 157-pounder Brayton Lee went 0-2 on the day after suffering an apparent injury in his opening bout, and injury defaulted out of the tournament. He will be looking to receive at-large bid for the NCAA tournament in the coming weeks.

The Gophers will return to action at noon central time tomorrow on B1G+ for the consolation semifinals and seventh and ninth-place bouts, before Big Ten Network rounds out the tournament coverage with the finals at 3:30 p.m. CST.

Fans can also follow along for live match-by-match updates on Twitter at @GopherWrestling.

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