Dylan Ness is getting healthy just when the Gophers wrestling team needs him most.
Ness, the national runner-up last year at 149 pounds, was racked with injuries early this season. But he delivered an important victory Friday night, as the third-seeded Gophers defeated sixth-seeded Virginia Tech 28-8 at Williams Arena in the quarterfinals of the National Duals.
Minnesota's win set up another showdown with archrival Iowa in Saturday afternoon's semifinal. Top-seeded Oklahoma State will face fifth-seeded Missouri in the other semifinal, with the two winners meeting in Saturday night's finals.
The Gophers (14-2) are looking for an eighth National Duals title and a repeat of last year, when they pulled off a one-day stunner, defeating both Iowa and Oklahoma State.
To do it again, Minnesota will need a big day from Ness.
A redshirt sophomore from Bloomington Kennedy, Ness twisted his way to a big reversal late in his match with Virginia Tech's sixth-ranked Nick Brascetta, and held on for a 7-6 victory.
On paper, it was the kind of match that could have gone either way. Brascetta is 25-4. Ness is 9-3 and ranked 11th in the latest Amateur Wrestling News poll.
"I would say I'm getting back to full strength," said Ness, whose primary issue was a lower-back injury. "The body's feeling good. I'm getting that excitement back."
Moments after Ness' victory, unranked Danny Zilverberg (13-7) brought Gophers fans to their feet with a 5-0 upset over sixth-ranked Jesse Dong at 157 pounds.
"That was huge," said Gophers assistant head coach Brandon Eggum. "It's one thing to win a match like that and get a takedown at the buzzer, but he won the whole match."
Asked if he fed off Ness' performance, Zilverberg said he couldn't watch it.
"I get too nervous when Dylan wrestles because he's scrambling all over the place," Zilverberg said. "When Dylan gets a win like that, it definitely gets the ball rolling for us."
After Zilverberg's victory, the Gophers led 13-3 and knew they were in good shape, with the fearsome foursome of Logan Storley, Kevin Steinhaus, Scott Schiller and Tony Nelson waiting in the final four matches.
At 165 pounds, Virginia Tech's Pete Yates (28-1) scored a technical fall over Cody Yohn, trimming Minnesota's lead to 13-8.
But Storley (20-1) won a 7-2 decision at 174 pounds, and then Steinhaus (21-1) got a meet-clinching pin at 184 pounds.
Schiller (20-3) squeaked out an 8-7 victory at 197 pounds, and Nelson (23-1), the defending NCAA heavyweight champion, scored a 4-0 victory, finishing the meet.
Second-seeded Iowa was wrestling on an adjacent mat and found itself leading seventh-seeded Cornell just 17-16 heading into the heavyweight match.
But the Hawkeyes' Bobby Telford cruised to an 8-0 major decision, setting up another rematch with Minnesota.
When the Gophers last faced Iowa, on Jan. 26, each team won five weight classes and finished with 15 points. They went to a third tiebreaker -- total match scoring -- and the Hawkeyes held that edge, 41-33.
Iowa is 20-1, with its lone loss coming to Oklahoma State. The Gophers' only two losses were to Iowa and Oklahoma State.
"That's what we want -- a little revenge," Ness said. "And to do the same thing we did last year."