A lot of elite wrestlers have walked the campus for the Gophers wrestling program.
Tony Nelson’s name is now definitely on that list.
Nelson repeated as the NCAA heavyweight champion over the weekend at the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
“He wrestled very well,” head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “He seemed composed throughout the tournament.”
Minnesota finished third as a team behind Penn State and Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lions won their third straight NCAA title.
Nelson beat Mike McMullan of Northwestern 6-2 in the finals — the same man he beat less than two weeks ago to capture the Big Ten title.
Eggum said McMullan is a very offensive wrestler.
“Tony’s defense and counter scoring is so good that if you attack him, you can put yourself in danger,” Eggum said.
Nelson said he’s realized all season that he’s had a target on his back. That hasn’t affected the way he wrestles.
“They want to be the guy to beat you, [and] to come out and do it again was just a big accomplishment,” the senior said in a press conference after the match.
Nelson finished the season with a 33-1 record. He lost his only match to Dom Bradley of Missouri at the Southern Scuffle.
The junior is the fifth heavyweight wrestler to win back-to-back titles for Minnesota. But he’s not satisfied with that.
Nelson said his ultimate goal, even before he won the title last season, was to be a three-time champion. He said former Minnesota heavyweights Cole Konrad and Brock Lesnar were his inspiration.
“Brock won it once. Cole won it twice,” Nelson said. “I’m right up there with [Konrad], and he’s a guy I always looked up to.”
Nelson was the lone Minnesota wrestler to win an individual title, but the Gophers boasted eight All-Americans.
Dylan Ness couldn’t build off his Big Ten championship from less than two weeks ago, and the sophomore finished fourth at 149 pounds. Ness shocked the world last season as the NCAA runner-up at 149.
Logan Storley had a terrible performance at the Big Ten championships, but the sophomore bounced back to finish fourth at the NCAA meet. He lost in the third-place match to his best friend from high school, Robert Kokesh of Nebraska. Storley was a force all season long, but he seemed to hit a wall in the two postseason tournaments.
Sophomore Scott Schiller (197 pounds) finished fifth, sophomore Chris Dardanes (133) finished sixth and both junior David Thorn (125) and senior Cody Yohn (165) finished seventh.
Kevin Steinhaus (185), who was upset early in the tournament, did not place.
Minnesota’s eight total All-Americans are the most in the nation for the second straight year.
—Dane Mizutani contributed to this report.