UI sends 3 wrestlers to NCAA tourney

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Patrick Bond

Record: 22-12

Class: 197 pounds

Seed: 11th

Past Experience: Bond has qualified each of the three previous seasons, finishing 1-2 each time.

Season Highlight: Bond said his Feb. 5 victory over Minnesota’s Sonny Yohn, who was ranked No. 10 at the time, helped him prove to himself that he can “wrestle those top guys and just go out there and compete.” Bond also said he still felt that same confidence even while wrestling at the Big Ten Championships.

Coach’s Take: Heffernan said that Bond needs to “not hold himself back” in order to be successful. Coaches have worked with Bond on his aggressiveness and opening up his approach in order to be successful.

Wrestler’s Take: “Just going out there and having fun (is important),” Bond said. “Just opening up, not concentrating on the score or the time that’s left … Just really giving myself opportunities to win.”

Tournament Preview: Health could play a big factor in Bond’s tournament run. After missing significant time this season, Bond says he “is feeling great right now.” Bond opens against Matthew Wilps of Pittsburgh and could potentially face No. 6 Eric Lapotsky of Oklahoma should both win.

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John Dergo

Record: 31-2

Class: 184 pounds

Seed: 2nd

Past experience: Dergo’s been to the NCAA Championships three times previously. Last season, Dergo went a career-best 3-2 and fell just one win shy of earning All-America honors.

Season highlight: Dergo has been one of the few consistent forces on this year’s squad, as his only two losses have come to No. 1 seed Kirk Smith of Boise State and Missouri’s Max Askren, who was ranked No. 2 at the time. Dergo avenged his loss to Askren, while earning his first Midlands Championship in December and also owns eight victories over ranked opponents.

Coach’s take: Heffernan said the key to Dergo’s success is to “just keep doing what he’s doing.”

Wrestler’s take: “If I get taken down early in the match, just fight back and wrestle hard for all seven minutes and I should have good things happen,” Dergo said.

Tournament preview: Dergo has proven himself to be one of the nation’s top 184-pounders all season and enters the tournament as a favorite to advance to the championship match. Once there, Dergo could get a chance to avenge his earlier loss to Smith. Earlier this season, Dergo defeated his first-round opponent, Pitt’s Zac Thomusseit.

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Jordan Blanton

Record: 20-7

Class: 174 Pounds

Seed: 10th

Past Experience: Blanton qualified for last year’s NCAA Championships as a freshman, but went 0-2.

Season Highlight: “I would say the Midlands Tournament was a huge turning point,” Blanton said. Blanton went 2-2 and failed to place at the tournament, which he called a “big wake-up call.”

Coach’s Take: Head coach Jim Heffernan said Blanton needs to “make sure he’s got a hard pace.” Heffernan has preached all season that wrestling for seven minutes would be a key to success, a lesson that Blanton has continually focused on all season.

Wrestler’s Take: Blanton said the key to his success is “just going out there with the mentality that you’re not going to break, and that you’re going to give that guy the worst possible seven minutes of his life… I wanna wear on him.”

Tournament Preview: Blanton kicks off the bracket against Iowa State’s Duke Burk, who scored a 9-8 decision when the two met at Midlands. Blanton could also face Iowa’s Jay Borschel should both advance to the quarterfinal round. Borschel defeated Blanton 6-0 when the two met at the Big Ten Championships.