For the second consecutive year, the Gophers wrestling team is heading to the National Duals championship meet.
Once again, Minnesota had to defeat Iowa to get there, and once again, the Gophers will face Oklahoma State for the title.
The Gophers defeated the Hawkeyes 22-15 on Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena in the semifinals, getting big wins from Nick Dardanes, Dylan Ness and Logan Storley, among others.
It was only the second time since 2007 the Gophers have defeated Iowa in a dual meet. The other came last year at the National Duals, and Minnesota followed up that night with an upset win over Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys defeated Missouri 22-6 in Saturday’s other semifinal and will meet the Gophers tonight at 7 p.m.
The Gophers will look to avenge a 22-15 loss to Oklahoma State from earlier in the season. Iowa also had defeated the Gophers earlier this year, 16-15 on Jan. 26. That meet couldn’t have been closer, as each team won five matches, scoring three points in each, leaving the score tied 15-15.
They went to a third tiebreaker -- total points scored in the individual matches -- and Iowa held the edge 41-33.
Knowing how close that meet was, the Gophers found themselves in trouble Saturday when Iowa’s Tony Ramos (21-0) pinned Chris Dardanes at 133 pounds, giving Iowa a 9-0 lead.
But Nick Dardanes picked up for his twin brother by scoring a 12-4 major decision over Iowa’s Mark Ballweg at 141 pounds. That match looked like a toss-up on paper, so it did more than just turn the momentum for Minnesota.
At 149, Dylan Ness continued his resurgence, pinning Michael Kelly with 21 seconds remaining in the first period. Ness was the NCAA runner-up last year, but he missed several meets early in the season with a lower-back injury. His pin gave Minnesota a 10-9 lead.
Iowa got expected decisions by Derek St. John, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds, and Nick Moore at 165.
And then came one of the meet’s biggest toss-ups -- Minnesota’s Logan Storley vs. Iowa’s Mike Evans -- the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 ranked wrestlers at 174 pounds, respectively. Storley used a second-period reversal to pull out a 2-1 victory, trimming Iowa’s lead to 15-13.
The Gophers were favored in the final three matches, and Kevin Steinhaus, Scott Schiller and Tony Nelson didn’t disappoint, winning three straight decisions.
Storley, Steinhaus, Schiller and Nelson are now a combined 84-6.