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Minnesota Gophers: Gopher Wrestlers and Swimmers Earn All-American Honors at NCAA Championships

A trio of swimmers/divers and a pair of wrestlers are bringing home All-American Honors

Aaron Nagao is an All-American
Bjorn Franke—

Both the NCAA women’s swimming and diving and the NCAA wrestling championships were held last week with the Minnesota Gophers earning All-American honors as both competitions. A pair of Gopher wrestlers in redshirt freshman Aaron Nagao and 5th year senior Michael Blockhus earned All-American honors on the mat, while in the pool a trio of Gophers including junior Megan Van Berkom, 5th year senior Joy Zhu and freshman Vivi Del Angel all are bringing home hardware.

Minnesota started out well at the wrestling championships but could not keep up the same level of success into the later rounds. Nagao who was the runner-up at the Big Ten Championships at 133 pounds made it to the NCAA Quarterfinals before falling to the same wrestler who defeated him at the Big Ten’s—Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State. Nagao came back through the consolation bracket first getting a major decision over Iowa State’s Zach Redding 12-0 before then knocking off #5 seed Kai Orine of NC State 5-4 with a takedown in the final minute of the match. In the consolation semifinals Nagao would face Dalton Fix from Oklahoma State but would fall 6-4 to drop into the 5th place match. There he would defeat Jesse Mendez of Ohio State 4-0 to finish in 5th place in his first NCAA Championships and earn All-American honors.

Blockhus would also go on a deep run through the consolation bracket at 149 pounds. He was eliminated from the Championships Bracket with a loss in the Round of 16 to Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas. He then would win three consecutive bouts in the consolation rounds defeating Caleb Tyus from SIU-Edwardsville, Dom Deman from Cal Poly and Cayden Rooks from Indiana to earn All-American status. Blockhus would lose his final two bouts, first to Iowa’s Max Murren to drop him into the 7th place bout and then to Missouri’s Brock Mauller in the 7th place bout to finish in 8th place in his final NCAA Championships.

Minnesota’s other wrestlers all fell short in Friday’s sessions and were eliminated. The Gophers would finish in 15th place in the team standings.

The Gopher women’s swimming and diving team would send four members to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. Three would come back All-Americans.

The Gophers got off to a good start on Thursday night when fifth year senior Joy Zhu would finish in 8th place in the 1-meter springboard diving championships. It’s the first time Zhu has won All-American honors but it continues a streak six straight NCAA Championships with a Gopher All-American on the 1-meter.

Friday the Gophers added three more All-American honors. Zhu would go two for two as she would finish in 7th place in the 3-meter spring board diving event. It’s the sixth straight season that a Gopher has earned All-America honors on both the 1- and 3-meter springboards at the same Championships.

Joining Zhu as an All-American was Gopher freshman Vivi del Angel. The freshman made her NCAA Championships debut and came away with a 16th-place finish on the 3-meter to earn All-American honors. She would have an even more impressive performance on Saturday.

Rounding out the trio of All-American finishes for the Gophers on Friday was junior Megan Van Berkom in the 400 IM. She earned the highest finish of her career at the NCAA Championships as she came in sixth with a time of 4:05.37. That bested her 11th-place finish in the same event last year. Her sixth-place finish was the best by a Gopher at NCAAs since Brooke Zeiger also was sixth in 2016.

Rounding out the All-American train was Del Angle again on Saturday. After earning Honorable mention All-American honors on Friday, she stepped up and would finish in third place in the 10 meter platform diving competition to earn First Team All-American honors. The freshman posted the best finish by a Gopher in the event since Yu Zhou was second in 2016. She ended a very successful initial season with the maroon and gold on the platform competing seven times while posting five victories and two third-place finishes, while recording the seven highest scores for Minnesota.

As a team the Gophers would finish in 17th place. It was the team’s best effort since ending 11th in 2019 and marks its 17th straight season with a top-25 finish at NCAAs. That’s the 10th-longest active streak in the country.

The Men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship will take place this week right here at the Jean K Freeman Aquatics Center in Minneapolis. Gopher 5th year senior Max McHugh will look for NCAA titles four and five in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events.