Tony Nelson repeats as NCAA champ

Isanti native and former Bluejacket runs the tables in Des Moines

By Neil Jennissen

C-I Wrestling Head Coach

The Jennissen family loaded up the Explorer last weekend and drove to Des Moines, Iowa for a chance to witness history– to see if former Bluejacket wrestler Tony Nelson could repeat as a Division I 285 lb. national champion as a Golden Gopher. We weren’t disappointed.

Down the stretch of the 285 lb. champsionship match, Golden Gopher Tony Nelson displayed his superior conditioning against Northwestern’s Michael McMullan.  He countered the Wildcats’ shot with an overpowering takedown.   Photos courtesy of U of M Athletic Communications

Down the stretch of the 285 lb. champsionship match, Golden Gopher Tony Nelson displayed his superior conditioning against Northwestern’s Michael McMullan. He countered the Wildcats’ shot with an overpowering takedown. Photos courtesy of U of M Athletic Communications

In his opening match against Steven Graziano of Pennsylvania, it was 0-0 after the first period. Tony rode out in the second, but he dominated; the kid was never close to getting away. Third period, Tony escaped in something like three seconds, then he got a takedown right at end of the period. Typical Tony match– a lot of control, never in danger in a 4-0 win.

Nelson: “I felt good going into it. Always a little sluggish going into that first match. But got that first one out of the way and am excited to keep going.”

The round of 16 matched Tony up with another eastern grappler where he won by fall at the 5:42 mark in the third period.

Nelson: “I wrestled this next one before– Odie Delaney from the Citadel who I wrestled at the Southern Scuffle, and I know what he does. He goes for a low ankle and has a heavy left-hand tie. I looked for that pass-by early on and got him for a lead. In the third period, surprisingly he chose down. I kind of caught him flagging that arm, so I just ran the half and was able to put him to his back and pin him.”

The quarterfinals on Friday morning saw Tony get by 10th-seed Jarrod Trice of CMU 1-0, earning a berth in Friday night’s semifinals.

Familiar foes in semis & finals

Waiting for Tony in the semis was 3rd-seed Alan Gelogaev, the Russian native who wrestles for Oklahoma State. This was Tony’s third meeting with Gelogaev this season, and Tony wrestled smartly for a 5-4 decision.

Nelson: “He came out really physical, trying to get a lot of points early to take an early lead. But I was able to stay composed and was able to come back in the third. The shot I was going for was a double because I was hanging on his head a lot, wearing him down. But the last shot was actually a single; he was able to get his hips back well at first, then he fell back and I was able to lock up a cradle. He slipped that, but I was able to ride him out well for the win.”

The NCAA heavyweight championship was a rematch of the Big 10 Tourney finals, pitting Tony against Northwestern’s Michael McMullan. McMullan knocked off top-seed Dominique Bradley of Missouri 3-1 in their semis. Tony was the aggressor in the championship, winning a 6-2 decision.

Nelson: “He’s an athletic heavyweight who tries to get to my legs. I wrestled him three times before and didn’t want to change anything– just wanted to go out there and wrestle. I was looking to score early; I shot and scored. He was actually trying to crawl off the mat, and I was able to keep a foot in and pull him back in. I locked up a bear-hug to get the takedown.

 Following a controlling ride to the end of the match, Nelson celebrated with the large crowd inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines after winning his second championship.

Following a controlling ride to the end of the match, Nelson celebrated with the large crowd inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines after winning his second championship.

“In the third period, I wanted to ride him, but he got away. The goal then was to force him to take a bad shot. So I was snapping on his head, forced him to take a bad shot, and I was able to throw him.”

Nelson: “Looking at last year, I told (Coach) J. Robinson that I couldn’t stand the feeling to not win it again. So that was the one big thing driving me. This is a great program to be a part of, and I love Minnesota wrestling– I can’t thank them enough.To get better, I did a lot of freestyle over the summer, going to Finland to get better working on my feet. In the finals against McMullan for example, I was able to avoid those low singles better because of that.”

Tony finished the season 33-1 and is the second Gopher heavyweight to win back-to-back national championships. Cole Konrad also did it back in 2006-07.

Nelson: “My ultimate goal is to be a three-time national champ, so this the step I needed to keep going.”

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