Gophers wrestler Tony Nelson: A test of toughness

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2014 - 12:46 AM
hide

Gophers senior Tony Nelson’s road to a third NCAA wrestling title goes through familiar territory. Four of the top five heavyweight seeds are from the Big Ten.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com; Star Tribune illustration,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Tony Nelson admitted, a bit reluctantly, that those four losses might not have been such a bad thing.

It provided motivation, and anyone who doubts this need only look at the way Nelson performed at the Big Ten Conference wrestling championships.

And maybe it forced upon Nelson, the Gophers’ two-time defending NCAA champion heavyweight, just a little perspective.

“You sit back and look at things,” said Nelson, leaning against a weightlifting machine in the team’s cavernous wrestling room. “You realize this isn’t just going to come to you.”

And so, this week, Nelson is getting ready to go out and get it. Again.

He has a chance this weekend to become the first three-time NCAA champ in the Gophers’ fabled wrestling history. He is already a three-time All-America selection, a wrestler whose college success before this season had precluded the need for much soul-searching.

Nelson, a redshirt senior, will be the top-seeded heavyweight when the three-day NCAA tournament kicks off Thursday morning at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Nelson is also hopeful of leading the Gophers to a national team title after they finished a disappointing third at the Big Ten meet.

Nelson is back in top form after working his way to his third consecutive conference championship in Madison, Wis., nearly two weeks ago. He is motivated, which should serve as a warning to other heavyweights headed to Oklahoma.

As he prepares to wrestle for the Gophers for a final tournament, Nelson said it’s important to him to claim that third and final NCAA championship.

“I want to go out on top,” he said. “I want to be the first three-timer here. That is my goal. It’s been my goal since my sophomore year. Anything else would be a disappointment.”

To which Gophers coach J Robinson said, simply: So do it.

“He’s been there before,” Robinson said. “He knows what he has to do. He has a hard road ahead of him. But then, being a three-time national champion is a hard thing to do.”

Unexpected defeats

From the start of the season and into January, things went according to plan for Nelson. But on Jan. 10, he lost in overtime to Northwestern’s Michael McMullan. Then, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 2, he lost three consecutive matches — two in overtime — to Adam Coon of Michigan, Bobby Telford of Iowa and Adam Chalfant of Indiana.

Suddenly he had lost four matches, more than he had in his previous two seasons combined. Yes, each match was close. And yes, Nelson was hampered because of a nagging injury — neither he nor Robinson would be specific — that was going to need rest. But it was also a time for Nelson to realize that, as a two-time defending national champion, it was harder to stay on top than to just get there.

“The whole thing is how you internalize what has happened to you,” Robinson said. “It’s like the old saying, 10 percent of life is what happens and 90 percent is how you deal with it.”

  • related content

  • Chart: NCAA wrestling tournament info

    Tuesday March 18, 2014

    NCAA wrestling: Thursday through Saturday

  • Chart: Tony Nelson at a glance

    Tuesday March 18, 2014

    A closer look at the two-time defending NCAA heavyweight champ

  • Chart: Gophers' two-time NCAA wrestling champions

    Tuesday March 18, 2014

    Gophers senior Tony Nelson is attempting to become the first three-time NCAA wrestling champ in school history.

  • Tony Nelson wanted to go unbeaten as a senior. “That didn’t happen,” he said. “And now I want to be back on top of that podium.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 23 1st Qtr 2:04
Miami 28
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 50 2nd Half 8:22
Nebraska 55
Colorado 5:30 PM
Hawaii
George Washington 7:30 PM
Wichita State
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close