USA Wrestling Minnesota senior Dyl...

Minnesota senior Dylan Ness focused on finishing career with NCAA individual, team championships

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | Nov. 17, 2014, 1:54 p.m. (ET)

Minnesota senior Dylan Ness has finished second, fourth and second at the NCAA tournament. USAW file photos.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – How unpredictable is Minnesota senior Dylan Ness on the wrestling mat?

Not even the high-flying Ness knows what he’s going to do next.

“I don’t go out there with a plan,” Ness said. “I just go out and wrestle, and have fun.”

The nation’s top-ranked 157-pounder is arguably the most dynamic, dangerous and exciting wrestler in the country.

A two-time NCAA runner-up and three-time All-American, Ness is off to an unbeaten start this season for the top-ranked Golden Gophers. He is 6-0 with four falls, pushing his career pin total to 29.

Ness is one of five seniors ranked in the top five nationally in the powerful Minnesota lineup.

He’s also a wrestler known for taking risks and competing with a go-for-broke, unorthodox style. He is tall for the 157 weight class, and uses his longer arms and legs to his advantage when he is involved in a scramble position.

Ness has been lethal with an elevator maneuver that he hits to counter an opponent's leg attack. Ness appears to be in danger as his backside hits the mat, but he will then counter the attack by elevating his opponent with his leg and turning them to their back.

That high-risk approach can have its share of rewards and drawbacks.

Ness endured his share of setbacks and injuries last year, and entered the 2014 NCAA tournament in Oklahoma City as just the No. 9 seed at 157.

Ness advanced to the quarterfinals for a rematch against No. 1 seed James Green of Nebraska, who had scored a 7-3 win over Ness in the Big Ten semifinals.

But as he’s done countless times in his career, Ness delivered on the big stage. He was involved in a scramble with the explosive Green early in the second period and flipped Green to his back to score a dramatic fall.

Ness leaped to his feet and flexed in celebration as he provided Minnesota with a huge boost in the team race.

“When I wrestle, I just go with the flow,” Ness said after last weekend's win at Air Force. “I’m sure it’s frustrating for the fans sometimes when I take some chances out there. I’m not even sure what I’m thinking when I go through my matches. That’s probably what makes it so fun and exciting.”

Ness is trying to join his older brother Jayson Ness as an NCAA champion. Jayson won the Hodge Trophy in 2010 and is now a Gopher assistant coach.

“It definitely helps having my brother around,” Dylan Ness said. “He’s always given me a lot of advice and support. But as you’ve seen from my matches, I don’t always pay attention to the coaches.”

Ness went on to finish second at the NCAAs for the second time in 2014. Ness also was second as a freshman in 2012 and fourth in the country as a sophomore.

“It drives me every day,” Ness said of being a two-time runner-up.

With his team locked in a tight team race with Penn State, Ness dropped a 13-4 decision to Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer in the 2014 NCAA finals at 157.

Penn State went on to edge Minnesota by just 5.5 points for its fourth straight team title.

“After I lost in the finals last year, it wasn’t just the feeling of losing my match, but losing for the team,” Ness said. “I took that very hard. I don’t think I talked to anyone for two weeks.

“I think that loss will help me become a better wrestler this year and help push my team to win the championship.”

Ness is joined on the strong Gopher team by senior All-Americans Chris Dardanes (133), Nick Dardanes (141), Logan Storley (174) and Scott Schiller (197).

“We definitely have some guys that can get on top of the podium this year,” Ness said. “Being so close last year as a team, it keeps us going pretty good. I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m still hurting from last year. The only thing we can do is move forward.”

Ness said he has made changes in how he is approaching his final collegiate season.

“In the past, I did a lot more joking around and messing around,” Ness said. “I think people can see I’m a lot more focused this year.”

One person who has noticed is legendary Minnesota coach J Robinson, a three-time NCAA championship coach.

“Dylan is a senior, and he’s a little bit more serious than I’ve seen him in the past,” Robinson said. “We know he’s always going to compete hard, but he’s a little bit more on task with everything he’s doing this year. He’s more focused – he realizes this is his last chance.

“Deadlines make us all do things we normally wouldn’t do. I think that’s the reality with Dylan. He wants to go out on top.”

Opposing coaches certainly are aware of what Ness can do on the mat.

“Dylan loves to compete,” Air Force coach Sam Barber said. “The bigger the match the more he loves it. He brings a lot of excitement to the mat. Dylan Ness just loves to wrestle. He is definitely entertaining for the fans to watch.”

Ness excelled while coming up through the USA Wrestling age-group ranks, capturing numerous national titles in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. But with all the injuries he has suffered, Ness is not sure if he will pursue international wrestling after college.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m just focusing on winning a national title and then I will proceed from there.”

Even with his high level of success, Ness has battled an assortment of injuries in college.

“Mainly my back and neck – I’ve always been hurt it seems like,” he said. “It definitely wears you down.”

For now, his focus is squarely on winning NCAA titles as an individual and a team this year.

“We’re real excited for this season,” Ness said. “The team race is going to be real good again and 157 looks like it’s going to be a real exciting weight class again. It’s going to be a fun year.”