As eight members of Minnesota’s wrestling program traveled to Pittsburgh for the NCAA Tournament over the weekend, four of them left as All-Americans.
For Mitch McKee at 141, Devin Skatzka at 174 and freshman heavyweight Gable Steveson, it was their first time achieving All-American status.
It was 133-pound Ethan Lizak's third straight year earning an All-American title. Lizak is the first three-time All-American for Minnesota since Michael Kroells in 2017.
“I had the same mindset going [into the tournament], but before matches I stopped and took in the atmosphere more because this is the last time I get to experience this,” Lizak said. “I left it all out there [on the mat] and that’s all I could ask for.”
Steveson garnered the highest place on the podium for the Gophers, finishing in third place. Lizak finished in seventh, McKee in sixth and Skatzka in eighth.
Minnesota's 125-pound Sean Russell, 149-pound Tommy Thorn, 157-pound Steve Bleise and 165-pound Carson Brolsma failed to reach the final podium in Pittsburgh.
As a team, the Gophers finished in eighth place with 53.5 points, which was fifth best in the Big Ten.
“I thought we wrestled really great. We put ourselves in a position where we had six guys in the blood round and one in the semifinals,” Thorn said. “All in all, I think our guys gave it their best shot and we wrestled really well.”
Steveson’s journey to a third-place finish with a 36-2 season record came after suffering his first loss of the year to Penn States Anthony Cassar at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago.
Round two was set for the semi-final round on Friday, and for Steveson he was waiting for it.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a week and a half now,” Steveson said to media after his quarterfinal match.
When that time came, Cassar got the best of Steveson again in a 4-3 decision after being awarded the winning point because of a 1:01 riding time advantage.
Steveson followed up his performance with two victories to close out his season.
“He’s been a competitor since day one,” head coach Brandon Eggum said. “Taking that loss was hard, but he showed up [Saturday] and did a great job for the team.”
Steveson finished higher on the podium in the NCAA Tournament higher than any other freshman in the country.
The tournament concludes the Gophers' season, in which they had a 14-3 record, 7-2 in the conference and garnered four All-American awards for the first time since 2017.
The team will move forward into next season without Bleise, Lizak, Thorn, Russell and Brandon Krone.
Despite all of the turnover on the roster, Eggum is optimistic about next season.
“Those guys are always going to be tough to replace, they’re great guys and obviously great wrestlers,” Eggum said. “But we have some great guys underneath.”