Oct. 10, 2011
Gophers are Settling for Nothing Less and Expecting More
The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher wrestling program is ready to get back to action this year. 2011-12 starts a new chapter for the Maroon and Gold, as they are putting last year’s seventh place finish at the NCAA Championships away for good. As a team, the Gophers are going to be settling for nothing less and expecting more in the end.
With four All-Americans (Zach Sanders, Sonny Yohn, Kevin Steinhaus and Tony Nelson) back to lead an experienced and hungry pack, the Gophers are ready to get things rolling. Seven of nine competitors, from last year’s NCAA Championships in Philadelphia return. Minnesota will be looking to claim their fourth national championship this season.
Head Coach J Robinson enters his 26th year as head coach of the Gophers and his staff believes in one thing and that is getting better each day.
“As a staff our focus is going to be getting better every day,” Robinson said. “I think if we do that, where we end up at the end of the year, is exactly where want to end up. The key is finding a plan and that is going to be continuing improving every day.”
The Minnesota coaching staff has done a little shuffling around the office over the offseason. Long-time assistant Joe Russell, has left the Gopher program to become the head coach at George Mason University. That has now opened the door for Brandon Eggum to move into the assistant head coach position and Luke Becker, to the assistant coach position. Eggum has been an assistant for over ten years, while Becker has been a volunteer assistant for the last nine.
"One of the things we wanted to do was to keep the continuity in the program," Robinson said. "I think Brandon and Luke have the philosophy that we strive on and that's being aggressive, as well as being dominant. I think they will bring that same thought process into their new jobs."
The four All-Americans have been named captains for the 2011-12 season. Seniors Sanders and Yohn have been tabbed to lead the team, along with sophomores Steinhaus and Nelson.
“Having great leaders is an important factor in achieving success here at Minnesota,” new assistant head coach Brandon Eggum said. “We are fortunate to have captains with great leadership and characteristics.”
Going into the 2011-12 season the line-up returns some familiar faces and a solid group of veterans who have the experience.
Senior All-American Zach Sanders finished fifth at the NCAA Championships last spring. Sanders, is a three-time All-American at 125 lbs, who has placed fifth at nationals the last two years.
The Wabasha, Minn., native went 34-6 last season with seven pins. He holds a career record of 102-23 with 28 pins.
“We are anchored at this weight class,” Robinson said. “Sanders has the potential to be a National Champion and becoming a four-time All-American, which doesn’t happen very often. “
Sanders also placed third at the Big Ten Championships and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
David Thorn and Chris Dardanes are set to compete for the 133 slot. A year ago Thorn held the top spot at this class, as he finished last season 16-13 overall, with a seventh place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Thorn competed at the NCAA Championships and had a two wins.
“This is a great class with two potential All-Americans,” Robinson said. “Thorn has worked very hard in the offseason. He is intense and has good feet. Chris (Dardness) is an intense wrestler, has great focus and he will push David (Thorn), which will give us great competition.”
This weight class will have a few guys competing for the top spot in the end. Bart Reiter, who has moved up a class from 133, along with Nick Dardanes and Seth Lange will all be pushing for the 141 position. Reiter, finished with a record of 11-7 last season at 133 pounds, while Dardanes went 20-4 after winning both the Kaufman-Brand Open and Husky Open. Lange was 17-2 with titles at the Dartronics Open and Flash Open.
“Bart (Reiter) moved up a weight class and it’s a chance for him to make a statement and he knows what winning is,” Robinson said. “This class will have some good competition with two freshman (Dardanes and Lange) and they both will be pushing each other and are dominate and aggressive. Whoever gets on the mat from this weight class, will do a great job for us.”
Dylan Ness looks to be in position to take control of 149 pounds. Ness competed in open meets last season and finished 16-1, with nine pins. Ness’s only loss came in his last match of the year at the Midlands Championships.
“People are excited for Dylan. Last year he placed at the Midlands Championships,” Robinson said. “He is going to push some guys around the country and give them a fight.”
Returning from last year is Danny Zilverberg, who took sixth at the Big Ten Championships and competed at the NCAA Championships. Zilverberg finished with a record of 19-15 overall, with five wins coming from a major decision.
“Danny had a great year last year as a freshman,” He improved as the season went on and gained a lot of confidence.”
After battling a series of concussions, Jake Deitchler is schedule to contend for a spot in the Gopher line-up. Dietchler, who represented Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has only competed in open meets and that was back in 2009.
“He (Deitchler) has a chance to be back. We are bringing him back slowly,” Robinson said. “If he makes it back and is able to go, it will put a lot of stability in this class.
Cody Yohn returns at 165 pounds. Yohn is coming off his second straight NCAA appearance, but has yet to place at the championships. A year ago, Yohn finished 28-13 and a fourth place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
“The last two years he has been so close at the NCAA Championships,” Robinson said. “He is ready to step it up a notch. He was ranked in the top eight last year and he has the capability in becoming an All-American. He needs to get better and better each practice.”
Coming into the season, a big question for Minnesota wrestling fans is, who will be at the 174 weight class? The Gophers have two candidates in mind, with senior Kaleb Young and true freshman Logan Storley. Young has a career record of 44-38 for the Gophers, but did not compete last season.
“Young is a senior and has been around a lot. He knows what is expected,” Robinson said. “This has to be his year.”
Looking at Storley, the Roslyn, SD native was a six-time state champion in the state of South Dakota. Storley was named the 2011 Jr. Hodge award winner and won the Disney Dual MVP honors after finishing 12-0.
“Storley is a kid who wants to wrestle,” Robinson said. “A lot of freshman come in and don’t want to wrestle, but it makes a statement about his confidence, with wanting to wrestle right away.”
Steinhaus, who picked up his first All-American honors with an eighth place finish at the NCAA Championships, finished with a record of 34-12 for the Gophers at 184 pounds. Hailing from Pennock, Minn., Steinhaus also recorded 11 major decisions in the 2010-11 season. He placed second at the Big Ten Championships after falling 3-4 against the Nittany Lions Quentin Wright.
“He (Steinhaus) brings in a great presents and he is diligence,” Robinson said. “He does what he is supposed to and even more than what is asked of him. He represents the way we want to wrestle, which is hard, aggressive and dominant.”
Senior All-American Sonny Yohn enters his final campaign as a Gopher and is coming off his second straight NCAA Championship appearance. Yohn, who hails from Alamosa, Colo., finished with 18 wins last season and a seventh place finish at nationals at 197 punds. He lost to Indiana’s Matt Powless in the consolation round by split victory 2-3, but came back to defeat Powless 5-2 for the seventh place match in Philadelphia.
“This is Sonny’s (Yohn) year to win it all,” Robinson said. “He fought an injury last year and came back in the end to find himself as an All-American. I think he is ready and he knows what he has to do to win.”
Nelson, who picked up his All-American honors last year, returns for his sophomore season. The Cambridge, Minn., native finished with a record of 34-8 and took seventh in the heavyweight division at the NCAA Championships. He took second at the Big Ten Championships after falling just short to Iowa’s Blake Rasing in the finals.
“He (Nelson) had a great learning year last year,” Robinson said. “He is very intelligent and has all the tools. His expectations are going to be different this year than last year. He is going to expect more in the end.”
2011-12 Minnesota Golden Gopher Wrestling Schedule
|Date||Opponent / Event||Location||Time / Result|
|11/12/11||Bison Open||Fargo, N.D.||All Day|
|11/18/11||at Cornell||Ithaca, NY||6:30 p.m. CT|
|11/20/11||at Penn State *||State College, PA||11:00 a.m. CT|
|11/27/11||vs. North Dakota State||Sports Pavilion||2:00 p.m. CT|
|12/02/11||at Central Michigan||Mount Pleasant, MI||6:30 p.m. CT|
|12/04/11||at Oklahoma State||Stillwater, OK||1:00 p.m. CT|
|12/09/11||vs. Iowa State||Williams Arena||7:30 p.m. CT|
|01/01/12||Southern Scuffle||Chattanooga, TN||All Day|
|01/02/12||Southern Scuffle||Chattanooga, TN||All Day|
|01/08/12||vs. Ohio State *||Sports Pavilion||1:00 p.m. CT|
|01/13/12||at Illinois *||Champaign, IL||7:00 p.m. CT|
|01/15/12||at Purdue *||West Lafayette, IN||1:00 p.m. CT|
|01/22/12||vs. Wisconsin *||Sports Pavilion||12:00 p.m. CT|
|01/27/12||vs. Michigan *||Sports Pavilion||7:30 p.m. CT|
|01/29/12||at Iowa *||Iowa City, IA||2:00 p.m. CT|
|02/05/12||vs. Nebraska *||Sports Pavilion||12:00 p.m. CT|
|02/11/12||NWCA National Duals||Piscataway, NJ||All Day|
|National Duals Final Four|
|02/18/12||NWCA National Duals Final Four||TBA||All Day|
|Big Ten Championships|
|03/03/12||Big Ten Championships||West Lafayette, IN||All Day|
|03/04/12||Big Ten Championships||West Lafayette, IN||All Day|
|03/15/12||NCAA Championships||St. Louis, MO||All Day|
|03/16/12||NCAA Championships||St. Louis, MO||All Day|
|03/17/12||NCAA Championships||St. Louis, MO||All Day|
Gophers Compete in Junior World Team Trials
Four Minnesota wrestlers were among those seeking a spot on Team USA in the weekend qualifying tournament hosted in Irving, Texas
McKee Wins Thriller at Beat the Streets
Overcoming deficits of 2-0 and 4-2, Gopher commit Mitch McKee earned a thrilling victory over the Asian junior champion at Beat the Streets in Times Square
Minnesota graduates four wrestlers from this year’s roster, each with their own unique path forward now that their collegiate wrestling careers have ended