Gophers wrestlers best rivals again for National Duals repeat title

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 11:53 PM

Just as they did last year, the Gophers defeated Iowa and Oklahoma State on the same day.

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Minnesota’s Nick Dardanes (facing camera) lifted Iowa’s Mark Ballweg in the air during a victory in the 141lb match in the National Duals semifinals.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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The opponents were the same. The accomplishment was the same.

But when the Gophers wrestling team repeated as National Duals champions Saturday, with a 22-15 victory over Iowa followed by a 28-9 triumph over undefeated Oklahoma State, this one happened at Williams Arena.

So when Nick Dardanes turned the momentum against Iowa, and when Logan Storley, Kevin Steinhaus and Tony Nelson delivered electrifying victories against Oklahoma State, the Gophers got to bask in the crowd's roar.

The weekend event drew an announced 6,500 fans for three sessions, so the crowds weren't huge, but they were plenty loud.

"You're not going to forget something like that," Steinhaus said. "Especially the overtime matches, and the pins and the comebacks."

The Gophers now have eight National Duals titles. It's a true team format, unlike next month's NCAA championships, which crowns a team champion based on the success of individual wrestlers.

Two-time defending NCAA champion Penn State skipped the National Duals again this year, but the Gophers (16-2) finished atop a field that included seven of the eight highest-ranked teams in the country.

Saturday's finishing touch included victories over Iowa (20-3) and Oklahoma State (17-1). Both teams had beaten the Gophers earlier this season.

"We could see some matches [in those losses] that we could definitely turn around and win, so it wasn't a surprise, I don't think," Gophers head assistant coach Brandon Eggum said.

Last year, the Gophers did the same thing in Stillwater, Okla., avenging early-season losses to Iowa and Oklahoma State on the same day. As good as their program has been under coach J Robinson, this kind of thing doesn't happen all the time.

These are the only two dual meets the Gophers have won against Iowa since 2007, and the only two against Oklahoma State since 2006.

In Saturday's semifinal, the Gophers fell behind 9-0 when Iowa's Tony Ramos pinned Chris Dardanes at 133 pounds. But Dardanes' twin brother, Nick, came right back with a major decision at 141 pounds, winning an important swing match against Mark Ballweg.

Dylan Ness followed with a pin at 149, and the Gophers were on their way.

"When [Chris] does well, it's a good thing, but when he does bad, I kind of get that little spark," said Nick Dardanes, who had lost two previous matches to Ballweg. "I get angry, and I kind of just take it out there in my match."

Both Dardanes brothers won their matches against Oklahoma State -- with Chris' win coming in the second tiebreaker session -- as the Gophers jumped to a 10-0 lead.

Oklahoma State came back to make it 10-9 with three expected victories, but then came the big showdown at 174 pounds -- No. 1 ranked Storley against No. 2 Chris Perry.

Once again, it went to overtime, and Storley pulled off a stunning defensive pin.

"In overtime match ... the win's super important," Eggum said. "But then when you get a pin, that's a bonus."

The Gophers have come to expect big things from Storley, Steinhaus, Scott Schiller and Tony Nelson, as the four big men are a combined 92-6 on the season.

Steinhaus squeaked out a 4-3 victory against Oklahoma State's Chris Chionuma, scoring a takedown with eight seconds remaining. And the second-ranked Nelson finished with a pin against third-ranked Alan Gelogaev, bringing the crowd to its feet one last time.

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