COLUMBUS, OHIO – Powered by crucial victories by Dylan Ness and Nick Dardanes, the top-ranked Gophers wrestling team claimed its third consecutive EAS/NWCA National Duals championship with a 24-15 victory over fourth-ranked Cornell on Monday.
The Gophers claimed six of the 10 bouts, including three majors and a fall, en route to the championship. This is the eighth championship for the Gophers, who improved to 12-1 this season.
The Gophers reached the championship match with a 25-10 victory over host Ohio State in the semifinals earlier on Monday at St. John Arena. The Buckeyes defeated Oklahoma 23-16 to claim third place.
Ness provided six big points against Cornell, building the Gophers’ lead to 17-3 halfway through as he pinned Brian Realbuto in 1 minute, 12 seconds at 157 pounds. Ness got into a cradle and scrambled with Realbuto before settling in for the fall. Ness has won seven of his last eight and had two falls in the event.
“You know, the kid’s real tough,” Ness said of Realbuto. “… He was close to winning that, but I just kept wrestling.”
Dardanes defeated Cornell’s Chris Villalonga 5-4 in sudden victory at 149 pounds. Dardanes was awarded the winning point after Villalonga was hit for his second stall warning with just over 10 seconds left in the extra period.
Cornell jumped out to a 3-0 lead after top-ranked Nahshon Garrett earned a 12-5 decision over Sam Brancale at 125 pounds. Garrett was third at the 2013 NCAA championships.
Gophers senior All-America David Thorn majored Cornell freshman Mark Grey 11-3 at 133 pounds. Thorn went 3-0 on the weekend and beat a pair of nationally ranked opponents.
The Gophers extended their lead to 8-3 after All-America Chris Dardanes picked up a 16-6 major decision over Cornell’s Logan David.
After Ness’ victory, Cornell’s Dylan Palacio pinned Danny Zilverberg at 165 pounds to close the Big Red’s gap to 17-9, but two-time Gophers All-America Logan Storley then beat Craig Eifert 8-2.
At 184, Cornell freshman Gabe Dean beat Gophers All-America Kevin Steinhaus for the second time this season, this time using an escape in the second set of tiebreakers to come away with a 3-2 victory. Dean defeated Steinhaus earlier this season at the Southern Scuffle.
All-America Scott Schiller’s major decision over Cornell’s Jace Bennett at 197 clinched the dual for the Gophers. With the outcome sealed, they sat two-time heavyweight champion Tony Nelson and put Michael Kroells on the mat against Cornell’s Jacob Aiken-Phillips, who won 7-6.
The Gophers close out the regular season with a nonconference dual meet at Iowa State on Sunday.