Defending heavyweight champ Tony Nelson of Minnesota successfully held onto his title at the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Saturday night.
The second-seeded Golden Gopher big man defeated Big Ten rival Mike McMullan – the No. 5 seed from Northwestern – by the score of 6-2. It was a rematch of the 2013 Big Ten finals, which Nelson also won, 4-1.
Nelson, who defeated 2011 NCAA heavyweight champ Zach Rey of Lehigh last year, becomes only the second Minnesota wrestler in the 285-pound class to win two titles, joining Cole Konrad, who earned back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007.
Nelson, a junior originally from Cambridge, Minn., brought a 32-1 record and the Big Ten title to the 2013 NCAA finals. McMullan, a sophomore who hails from Easton, Pa., was 22-3 going into the title match.
For those who immediately assume all college heavyweights look more like giant sumo wrestlers who do nothing but push each other around, the Nelson-McMullan match would be a revelation. Both men tip the scales at well below the 285-pound top limit, and have lean-muscled physiques (one wrestling writer refers to McMullan as “Muscles with Glasses”) that allows them to be more active, more like wrestlers at 184 or 197.
How Nelson got to the finals: 1st Round: dec. unseeded Steven Graziano of Penn, 4-0… 2nd Round: pinned unseeded Odie Delaney of The Citadel, 5:42… Quarterfinals: dec. No. 10 seed Jarod Trice of Central Michigan, 1-0… Semifinals: dec. No. 3 Alan Gelogaev of Oklahoma State, 5-4.
How McMullan got to the finals: 1st Round: dec. unseeded Dan Scherer of Stanford, 6-2… 2nd Round: : dec. unseeded No. 12 Adam Chalfant of Indiana, 7-5… Quarterfinals: dec. No. 4 seed Chad Hanke of Oregon State, 5-3… Semifinals: dec. No. 1 Dom Bradley of Missouri, 3-1, SV1.
- 1st Period: Nelson gets an edge-of-mat takedown with 30 seconds left in period. Northwestern coach Drew Pariano issues a video challenge; referee call was upheld. McMullen scores an escape with 10 seconds left. End of period score: 2-1 Nelson.
- 2nd Period: Nelson takes down position, gets out from under in the first ten seconds to take a 3-1 lead. No other scoring in the period.
- 3rd Period: McMullan takes down, gets escape to make score 3-2 Nelson. Nelson answers with a takedown with one minute left, to take 5-2 lead. With one point riding time, the final score is 6-2 Nelson.
Quotes from the champ:
- On whether it’s harder to win a second title: “I’d say yeah. Everyone wrestles you a little different. They want to be the guy to beat you. To come out and do it again was just a big accomplishment. I gained a lot of confidence from it.”
- How he felt throughout the match: “After that first takedown, that was huge for me, taking that lead, and when I came in in the first period, I had that lead, and he needed to score. I wanted him to go underneath and snap that head down and make him take a head shot. He went for a low ankle and I was able to defend my ankle from the go-behind.”
- On the third-period takedown that pretty much put away the match: “I was up one at that point. I was just trying to be heavy on his head and make him take a bad shot. I worked on it in practice. I got him to go underneath for a low ankle and I was able to pin him from behind and that kind of put it away right there.”
- On the Gophers’ tradition of producing heavyweight champs: “Last year, and even before, one of my goals was to be the first three-timer for Minnesota. Brock Lesnar won it once (in 2000) and Cole Konrad won it twice. I’m right up there with Cole now, and he’s a guy I always looked up to. To be up there with him is a big accomplishment.” (Note: Minnesota also had two heavyweight champs in the 1940s, Leonard Levy and Verne Gagne, for a total of five.)
2013 NCAA All-Americans – 285 pounds
- 1st: Tony Nelson (Minnesota)
- 2nd: Mike McMullan (Northwestern)
- 3rd: Alan Gelogaev (Oklahoma State)
- 4th: Dom Bradley (Missouri)
- 5th: Zac Thomusseit (Pittsburgh)
- 6th: Jarod Trice (Central Michigan)
- 7th: Odie Delaney (The Citadel)
- 8th: Matt Gibson (Iowa State)
Want to know more? Get the inside story on the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships with complete final brackets and team standings. For a look back, check out College Wrestling Examiner’s exclusive “Mat Bracketology” series of weight-by-weight previews… along with all College Wrestling Examiner articles on the 2013 NCAAs.
For big-picture overall recaps and results, check out articles at College Wrestling Examiner.. InterMat… and TheMat.com.
Want to see more of Nelson? For photos and info on the champ, Cole Konrad and the other best big men of college wrestling since 2001, visit NCAA Heavyweight Champs 2 Yahoo group. For the champs from 1928-2000 (including Gophers Levy, Gagne, and Lesnar), visit NCAA Heavyweight Champs Yahoo group.
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