Evanston, Ill. -- The No. 5 Minnesota wrestling team finished third at the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Sunday in Evanston, Ill. Mike Thorn, Kevin Steinhaus and Tony Nelson paced the Gophers with runner-up finishes while Penn State took the team title for its first-ever conference championship.
Along with the trio of second-place finishes, Zach Sanders finished third, Cody Yohn finished fourth, Sonny Yohn and Scott Glasser finished fifth, Danny Zilverberg finished sixth and David Thorn finished seventh, all in their respective weight classes. All told, Minnesota earned nine automatic bids to the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships in two weeks in Philadelphia.
After opening the Big Ten tournament with a pair of wins on Saturday to reach the finals, Mike Thorn fell in the 141 lbs. finals to national No. 1 Kellen Russell of Michigan via 8-4 decision. Minnesota's 2010 All-American previously picked up wins over Northwestern's Kaleb Friedley (F; 4:11) in his first matchup and then earned a 7-5 SV win over Iowa's Montell Marion - the No. 2 wrestler in the nation at 141 -- in the semis. Mike Thorn, who went 2-1 this weekend, earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in two weeks.
A bid for a Big Ten title in his first career appearance fell just short for Kevin Steinhaus as the redshirt freshman finished second behind Penn State's Quentin Wright. Steinhaus opened the weekend with a pair of wins over Cody Magrum of Ohio State and Grant Gambrall of Iowa, but dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to Wright in the finals. Down by one with seconds left, Steinhaus nearly scored the needed takedown but time ran out before the newcomer could lock in the takedown. The runner-up finish earns Steinhaus an automatic bid to the national tournament in two weeks in Philadelphia.
The same story proved true for redshirt freshman Tony Nelson. The Cambridge, Minn. native opened the tournament with a pair of wins before dropping a 5-2 decision to Blake Rasing of Iowa in Sunday's heavyweight finals. The runner-up finish in his first career conference tournament earned Nelson an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Zach Sanders ended his weekend with a pair of wins on Sunday to finish third and tie his best career finish at the conference tourney. In Session III's opening match, Minnesota's two-time All-American pinned Wisconsin's Thomas Kelliher at 3:29 to advance to the third-place match and then earned a 12-4 major decision over Michigan's Sean Boyle to place third at the event. The redshirt junior went 4-1 at the conference championships this year and will earn an automatic bid to nationals this year.
Yohn advanced to the consolation finals in his opening match on Sunday after scoring a 4-2 SV win over Illinois' Conrad Polz in the semis, but couldn't pick up his second win of the weekend. The redshirt freshman dropped a 4-2 decision to Iowa's Aaron Janssen in the consolation finals to finish fourth at the conference tournament - his best career finish to date. Yohn went 1-2 at this year's event to earn an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Redshirt freshman Danny Zilverberg cemented his place at this year's NCAA championships with a sixth-place finish at the Big Ten championships. Zilverberg opened the weekend with a loss to Penn State's Frank Molinaro - the eventual 149 lbs. champ - but rebounded on Saturday with two wins in the consolation bracket. The grappler couldn't repeat that performance on Sunday however, dropping two matches in Session III. Zilverberg opened the day with a closely contested 6-4 SV loss to Northwestern's Andrew Nadhir before dropping a 9-1 major decision to Eric Terrazas of Illinois in the fifth-place match.
After suffering an opening round loss to Wisconsin's Ben Jordan, Minnesota's Scott Glasser battled back through the consolation brackets to earn another shot at the Badger. This time, Glasser would dominate as he earned a 6-1 decision to finish fifth at the Big Ten championships and earn an automatic bid to the national tournament. Glasser went 3-2 over the weekend and rebounded from a 6-3 loss to Iowa's Ethen Lofthouse early on Sunday morning to come back and get the win over Jordan.
Redshirt junior Sonny Yohn rebounded from a 3-2 to Matt Powless of Indiana early Sunday morning to beat Logan Brown of Purdue 3-2 and earn fifth-place in the 197 lbs. bracket. Sonny Yohn went 2-2 over the weekend including a loss to eventual champion Trevor Brandvold of Wisconsin. The All-American earned a place at the national tournament with his performance at the Big Ten championships.
David Thorn was the first Gopher to place on Sunday in Evanston, winning a closely contested seventh-place match over Northwestern's Levi Mele. In his first-career conference championships appearance, Thorn picked up a 6-4 decision over the second-seeded Mele and will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. David Thorn finished the weekend with a 1-2 showing at the conference competition.
Minnesota returns to action in two weeks at the NCAA tournament.