Minnesota’s five wrestlers headed to the Division I Wrestling Championships this weekend received their draws Monday as the NCAA unveiled the brackets for the 2009 national tournament.
Three of the five were seeded for the three-day event, which gets underway at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday.
Junior Jayson Ness (33-7) is the Gophers’ top-seeded wrestler and will open the tournament in the No. 6 position in the 133-pound class. Ness, a two-time All-American, recorded three pins at the Big Ten Championships to break the school record for career wins by pinfall and placed fourth at the conference meet. He will battle junior Conor Beebe (22-12) of Central Michigan in his opening bout.
At 141 pounds, sophomore Michael Thorn (29-15) earned a No. 10 seed and will be making his nationals debut. Thorn burst on the scene this season by winning his first 12 matches. He finished fifth at the Big Ten Championship to earn an automatic NCAA berth and will battle Northern Iowa’s Trenton Washington (14-7) in his opening bout of the tournament.
The final Gopher to receive a national seed was freshman Zach Sanders (35-7). Sanders, the No. 11 seed at 125 pounds, will also be making his debut at the national tournament after compiling the Gophers best overall record this season. He won 15 consecutive matches to open the year and placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships. Sanders’ opening-round match will be against Clarion’s Jay Ivanco (19-12).
At 157 points, senior Tyler Safratowich (29-12) enters the NCAA Championships without a national seed. The lone senior in Minnesota’s starting lineup, he will be making his second career appearance at the national meet. Safratowich, who just missed out qualifying for last year’s NCAA Championships, became just the 35th wrestler in school history to chalk up 100 career victories this year and enters the national meet one win shy of the 30-win plateau on the season. The third-place finisher at the Big Ten Championships, he will take on the No. 10 seed Scott Winston (38-7) in his opening bout.
Heavyweight Ben Berhow (26-9), a sophomore, rounds out Minnesota’s national tournament competitors. Berhow, who is unseeded, placed fourth at the Big Ten meet, will be making his second appearance at the NCAA Championships. He established himself as one of the Big Ten’s elite heavyweights this season, putting together an 8-0 conference record in dual meet action and notching three wins over ranked conference foes since mid-January. Berhow will battle No. 10 seed Ryan Flores of Columbia in the first round.
The Gophers posted a 15-8 dual meet record this season and the quintet representing Minnesota in St. Louis later this week will be working to help J Robinson’s to his 13th consecutive top-10 NCAA finish. Four All-Americans helped Minnesota finished 10th (61.5 pts) at the NCAA meet last year.
Action at the 2009 NCAA Championships begins at 11 a.m. (CT) on Thursday with the first of two sessions. The competition continues at 10 a.m. on Friday with the first of two more session before the final session gets underway at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.