Despite a disappointing seventh-place finish in the team race, Minnesota grabbed five All-America honors at the NCAA championships, four from wrestlers who will return next season.
The All-American who will not be returning, however, is senior captain Mike Thorn (141 pounds), who took third and was the team’s highest finisher.
Last year, senior captain Jayson Ness highlighted the Gophers’ NCAA championships with closing-seconds heroics. This year, Mike Thorn got his chance.
Thorn beat rival Montell Marion of Iowa 4-3 in the waning seconds of their consolation match.
“No matter what, I was going to end my wrestling career today,” Thorn said. “If I had to write a way to go out, I think this is a pretty good way, beating an Iowa guy in the closing seconds.”
Thorn trailed with less than 10 seconds to go but secured the takedown with time winding down to end his career on a high note.
“At that point, your odds of getting a takedown are very minimal, but he found a way to get on his leg and score the takedown in the closing seconds,” head assistant coach Joe Russell said.
“[It was] kind of a storybook way to end your career.”
Added Thorn: “I don’t view it as a disappointment. I had a chance to make the finals and I would have loved to, but I have to accept the way things ended and I’m comfortable with that.”
Thorn’s fellow captains earned All-America honors at their respective weights as well, with Zach Sanders finishing fifth and Sonny Yohn taking seventh.
Sanders (125) dropped a 5-3 decision to Utah Valley’s Ben Kjar in the quarterfinals and then another 5-4 decision in the consolation semifinals to Northwestern’s Brandon Precin.
Sanders closed the championships strong, though, with a 6-2 decision over Ryan Mango of Stanford to earn fifth place and become an All-American for the third time in his career.
Yohn (197) exacted a little revenge to earn his highest career finish at the championships as well and his second straight All-America honors.
Yohn dropped a second-round match to Indiana’s Matt Powless, a wrestler to whom he also lost in the Big Ten championships.
Yohn and Powless met again in the seventh-place match after both worked their way through consolation brackets. This time, Yohn emerged with a 5-2 decision.
Two of Minnesota’s freshmen capped off impressive rookie campaigns with All-America accolades as well. Tony Nelson (heavyweight) took seventh and Kevin Steinhaus (184) eighth.
Nelson struggled with inconsistent offense at times this season, but he had no trouble in the seventh-place match, pinning Arizona State’s Levi Cooper in the first period.
Steinhaus was the only Gophers All-American to drop his final match, but he secured the honors by winning four of his opening five matches. Steinhaus dropped a 4-2 decision in the seventh-place match to familiar foe Travis Rutt of Wisconsin, whom he lost to twice previously on the year.
Steinhaus earned the 100th All-America honor in J Robinson’s tenure, and the coach now boasts 102 total accolades from 48 different wrestlers.
Still, a team that came into the year with national title aspirations had a tough pill to swallow in finishing behind six other teams in the country, two in the Big Ten (Penn State won the team title, Iowa finished third).
“It’s tough not to win the trophy, but we definitely have a bright future with the guys we have in the room,” Russell said.
He added: “We obviously wanted to do better as far as the team race goes, but having five All-Americans is a big shot in the arm to our program.”
That a seventh-place national finish is viewed as a disappointment speaks volumes of a program that has come to expect excellence.
“Nobody came away with what they wanted [a national title] and that’s always hard,” Russell said. “Our guys were disappointed but also resolute in what they need to do [this offseason] so they don’t have that feeling again.”
Nominate an exceptional graduating senior for the upcoming Ski-U-Mah Issue!
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
When UMN students plan for a vacation, having trip cancellation travel insurance is a worthwhile commodity to check out.
Minneapolis Used Cars
Give back to the Minnesota community with a boat donation at boat4causes.org.
If you have been involved in a car accident call a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer for a free consultation.