Salazar Wins Big Ten Title at 184 Pounds

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – When competing in a championship match, Minnesota wrestlers don a gold singlet. Sunday at the XFINITY Center, Minnesota senior Isaiah Salazar took part in the time-honored tradition and followed with a dramatic victory in overtime to claim the 184-pound title at the Big Ten Championships in College Park, Md.

A native of Greeley, Colo., Salazar becomes the first Gopher conference champion since Gable Steveson won three titles in a row at heavyweight from 2020-22. Salazar is the first to do it at 184 pounds since Kevin Steinhaus in 2012, and he joins Roger Kish (2006), Damion Hahn (2002) and Gophers head coach Brandon Eggum (1999-00) as the only Gophers to win the Big Ten title at 184.

The top seed, Salazar, matched up with Penn State’s third-ranked Bernie Truax in the finals. The first-ever meeting between the pair was scoreless after the first period. Truax chose to start down in the second period and escaped after 40 seconds. He led it 1-0 going to the third period when Salazar became the final stanza in the down position. He tied it up in just seven seconds, and the match remained even at 1-1 as the whistle blew after 7:00 of regulation.

After 40 seconds of sudden-victory overtime, Salazar had Truax draped over his back, and he was able to turn that into a takedown plus four nearfall points to clinch the 8-1 win.

It was Salazar’s 15th straight win, and his season record is 21-1. During the streak, he has outscored his opponents 143-17, and he’s given up two points or fewer in 13 of the 15 matches.

“It felt great,” Salazar said on the Big Ten Network telecast after his win. “It’s for sure been a journey; it’s been a fun one. Watching success continue, I have the best guys in the room, the best coaches, they push me all around so it’s been really fun.”

“You have to have that confidence and that mindset,” Salazar continued when asked about keeping his opponents off the scoreboard. “No one is going to work harder, and I’m going to push the pace.”

Salazar was one of six Gophers to reach the podium, and Minnesota finished in seventh place with 74 points. It’s the fourth year in a row and the seventh time in eight years that the team has finished seventh or better under Eggum.

Isaiah Salazar Big Ten Champ

Sixth-year senior Patrick McKee was also a finalist as he was the runner-up at 125 pounds, the best finish for a Gopher at the weight since Ethan Lizak also claimed second in 2018.

Facing the No. 6 seed in Penn State’s Braeden Davis, McKee lost 8-1. After a scoreless first period, McKee started down in period two and Davis turned him for three nearfall points and over a minute of riding time before an escape from McKee. In the final period, Davis started down, escaped and then added a takedown in the closing seconds to get to the final margin.

After qualifying six Gophers for the NCAA Championships Saturday, Minnesota added an additional participant Sunday when redshirt sophomore Drew Roberts qualified at 149 pounds.

Needing to win two matches to claim the ninth and final allocation spot, the ninth-seeded Roberts did just that with a pair of decisions. First up, he topped Illinois’ No. 14 Jake Harrier, 12-6, then followed that up with a 5-3 victory over Rutgers’ 10th-seeded Michael Cetta. In his first year as a Minnesota starter, it’ll be Roberts’ first trip to NCAAs.

Sixth-year senior Garrett Joles lost his consolation semifinals matchup at 197 pounds with second-seeded Jaxon Smith of Maryland, 11-2, but was later awarded fifth place following a medical forfeit by Ohio State’s Luke Geog. Joles’ fifth-place finish was the best at the weight for a Gopher since Brett Pfarr was a finalist in 2017.

Also competing in the consolation semifinals, ninth-ranked senior Andrew Sparks dropped a 10-9 decision to Rutgers’ No. 6 Jackson Turley. Moving to the fifth-place match, Sparks lost in overtime to Iowa’s third-ranked Patrick Kennedy, 4-1. It was the best finish at the Big Ten Championships for Sparks in his career.

Redshirt sophomore and No. 10 seed Vance VomBaur won his seventh-place matchup at 141 pounds with Illinois’ No. 6 Danny Pucino, avenging a regular-season loss. VomBaur, who lost 8-5 in early February to Pucino, prevailed with a 4-1 win in overtime Sunday. After no score in the first period, each wrestler posted an escape over the next two periods to send the match to extra time tied at 1-1. In the extra frame, VomBaur got in on a single-leg to secure the win.

At 165 pounds, redshirt sophomore Blaine Brenner fell in his seventh-place bout against Purdue’s Stoney Buell by major decision, 15-7. It was a rematch from the opening round when the 10th-seeded Brenner pinned No. 7 Buell at the 3:43 mark.

Big Ten Championships Results

Minnesota now awaits any additional at-large picks for the NCAA Championships, March 21-23, in Kansas City, Mo. The field is expected to be released on March 12, while the seeds will be unveiled on the Selection Show at 7 p.m. on March 13.

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