The Golden Gopher wrestling team enjoyed an outstanding first two sessions of competition during day one at the 2009 NCAA Championships Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Minnesota’s five participants posted a 7-3 combined record Thursday, good enough to rank tied for 23rd in the Day 1 standings with 11.0 points. Defending national champion Iowa and Iowa State are tied atop the team leader board heading into the second day of competition with 33.0 points.
Sixth-seeded junior Jayson Ness (133 pounds), No. 11 seed redshirt freshman Zach Sanders (125) and unseeded senior Tyler Safratowich (165) all advanced to the third round of competition with a pair of victories in the afternoon session.
Heavyweight Ben Berhow split his two matches, and 141-pound Mike Thorn dropped his two and was eliminated. Berhow will attempt to work through the consolation side of the bracket beginning Friday.
Ness, a two-time All-American and 2008 national runner-up at 125 pounds, looked strong in his first NCAA Championship at 133 pounds. The Bloomington, Minn. native notched an easy 8-1 major decision win over Central Michigan’s Conor Beebe in his first match of the day. Ness then followed that with an equally-impressive 9-0 round two win over Cornell’s 11th-seeded Mike Cornell.
The junior did not surrender a takedown in either match and notched six of his own, improving to 10-3 lifetime at NCAAs.
Sanders, competing in his first career national tournament, rolled to a 13-6 major decision win over Clarion’s Jay Ivanco in round one before pulling off a surprising 5-4 upset of Old Dominion’s James Nicholson in round two. Sanders entered the third period down 3-0, but rallied with a dramatic takedown and reversal, winning the match with the bonus point for riding time.
Safratowich, a senior competing in his second and final NCAA Championships, took down two ranked wrestlers in the early going Thursday. The Gophers’ 157-pounder topped No. 10 Rutgers’ Scott Wintson 5-2 in round one before upsetting No. 7 Matt Moley of Bloomsburg 7-4 in the second round. A second-period three-point nearfall put Safratowich up 7-2, and he would hold on for the victory.
Heavyweight Berhow lost his opening round match in his first national appearance a year ago, but looked impressive Thursday. He toppled No. 10 Ryan Flores of Columbia by an 8-3 decision in the first round before dropping to the consolation bracket after a 10-4 loss to No. 7 Daniel Erekson of Iowa in the second round.
The Gophers’ first loss of the tournament’s day came when tenth-seeded Thorn was upset in the first round by Trenton Washington of Northern Iowa by a 5-2 decision at 141 pounds. Thorn then saw his first NCAA appearance come to an abrupt end when he was taken down by Army’s William Simpson 10-8 in consolation competition.
All five Gophers will resume competition in Friday morning’s third session at the Scottrade Center. The action gets underway at 10 a.m.
Gopher match-by-match Thursday results
FIRST ROUND: Sanders maj. dec. Jay Ivanco (Clarion), 13-6
SECOND ROUND: Sanders dec. #6 James Nicholson (Old Dominion) 5-4
FIRST ROUND: Ness maj. dec. Conor Beebe (Central Michigan), 8-1
SECOND ROUND: Ness maj. dec. Mike Grey (Cornell), 9-0
FIRST ROUND: Trenton Washington (N. Iowa) dec. Thorn, 5-2
CONSOLATION: William Simpson (Army) dec. Thorn, 10-8
FIRST ROUND: Safratowich dec. Scott Winston (Rutgers), 5-2
SECOND ROUND: Safratowich dec. Matt Moley (Bloomsburg), 7-4
FIRST ROUND: Berhow dec. Ryan Flores (Columbia), 8-3
SECOND ROUND: Daniel Erekson (Iowa) dec. Berhow, 10-4