The Minnesota wrestling team will send three Gophers to the finals on Sunday at the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Evanston, Ill. Minnesota, which currently sits third in the team standings, has nine wrestlers eligible to place in the conference championship. Redshirt senior Mike Thorn (141) and redshirt freshmen Kevin Steinhaus (184) and Tony Nelson (285) each won their semifinal matches to advance to the finals on Sunday afternoon.
Thorn was the first Gopher of the day to reach the finals when he came back from a four-point deficit to beat Iowa's Montell Marion 7-5 in the sudden victory period. Marion jumped out to a 5-1 lead when he scored a third period takedown and followed up with a three-point nearfall. But Thorn owned the final minute of action, creating an escape and tallying a takedown of his own before a riding time bonus sent the match to sudden victory. In the extra time, Thorn held off his foe's advances before turning Marion for the two-point takedown. Thorn, seeking his second Big Ten title, will meet Michigan's Kellen Russell in the 141 lbs. finals.
Steinhaus joined his teammate in the championship round when he defeated Iowa's Grant Gambrall with a 5-4 decision in the 184 lbs. semifinals. After trading escapes to open the second and third periods, Steinhaus broke the tie with a third-period takedown and earned a riding time bonus point to pick up the win and advance to the finals in his first Big Ten championship appearance. Steinhaus will meet Penn State's Quentin Wright in the 184 lbs. finals.
Nelson followed suit two semifinal matches later when he scored a 3-0 decision win over Penn State's Cameron Wade. After two scoreless periods to open the match, Nelson broke the scoreless tie with the match's lone takedown in the third period before adding a bonus point for riding time for the 3-0 win over the Nittany Lions' heavyweight. Nelson will meet Iowa's Blake Rasing in the 285 lbs. finals.
Minnesota has six additional wrestlers in the running to place at the conference tournament. Zach Sanders dropped a 4-0 decision to Northwestern's Brandon Precin and will meet Wisconsin's Tom Kelliher for a shot at third in the 125 lbs. bracket. At 133, David Thorn will meet Northwestern's Levi Mele for seventh-place after being pinned by Michigan's Zac Stevens in the consolation bracket. Danny Zilverberg rallied off a pair of 149 lbs. consolation victories on Saturday afternoon to earn a consolation semis matchup against Northwestern's Andrew Nadhir. At 165 lbs., Cody Yohn fell 2-0 to Ohio State's Colt Sponseller in the semifinals for the sophomore's first loss of the weekend. Yohn will take on Conrad Polz of Illinois in the consolation semifinals. In the 174 lbs. consolation bracket, Scott Glasser scored a pair of wins to reach the semifinals against Iowa's Ethen Lofthouse on Sunday. Sonny Yohn fell in his 197 lbs. semifinal matchup to Wisconsin's Trevor Brandvold 3-2 and will meet Indiana's Matt Powless for a chance to battle for third. Matt Mincey is the lone Gopher out of competition, losing a pair of matches on Saturday.
Minnesota currently sits in third place with 96.5 team points behind Iowa (110.5) and Penn State (109.0). The 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships continue tomorrow morning at 1 p.m. local time. The championship round begins at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast live by the Big Ten Network.