InterMat recently caught up with Ness.
This has been your most consistent season of your college wrestling career. You are currently undefeated. In the three previous seasons you dropped six or more matches each season. What have been the keys to your consistency this season?
Ness: I think just being a little more grown up, being a lot more focused on wrestling and staying healthy, wrestling for the right reasons, wrestling for the Lord. I'm going out there with no pressure. Win or lose, it doesn't matter. In previous years I've dealt with a lot more injuries. I was so focused on winning all the time. This season I'm just focusing on one match at a time, one practice at a time, and hopefully it all works out in the end.
You were held out of a January dual meet against Illinois because of sickness. You would have faced Isaiah Martinez, an undefeated freshman who is currently ranked No. 2. Is that a matchup you're looking forward to in March?
Ness: I'm looking forward to every match come March. But I'm excited for that matchup if it happens. He's having a really good year. He's getting a lot of tech. falls. He's a strong and aggressive wrestler, so it should be a fun match.
Dylan Ness defeated Nebraska's James Green in Las Vegas (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Earlier this season you defeated Nebraska's James Green, 4-3, in Las Vegas. In that match you gave up the first takedown, but scored the go-ahead takedown late in the second period and then held him off in the third period. Do you find yourself approaching each match with Green differently?
Ness: It's hard to tell because I'm just a different wrestler than most people. I don't necessarily go out there with a game plan. I just go out there and wrestle. I don't necessarily have a strategy. The last two matches I've won against him I have used two completely different styles. I'm sure he's been licking his chops to get back at me. We wouldn't meet until the Big Tens, so I'm not going to worry about that match until it gets closer to that time.
The Gophers did not compete in the Southern Scuffle this season and instead wrestled in the first annual Aloha Open in Hawaii. What was your experience like in Hawaii?
Ness: I thought it was a great experience. The college wrestling season is such a grind. It's the toughest few months you're going to have in your life. Just having a few months to be at the beach and away from the cold weather helps us relax and take our minds off wrestling for a little while, which I think can be a good thing every once in a while. When you think about wrestling too much it can wear on you mentally. It was also a great experience for the people in Hawaii. They never get to see college wrestling in person. They only get to watch online or on TV. The people out there were really excited and happy that we were out there.
You were battling sickness when you wrestled against Iowa and still beat a solid wrestler in Mike Kelly. After the match your coach J Robinson praised you for the courage you showed in that match. How tough was that match for you?
Ness: It was real tough. I didn't have much energy. I was kind of out of it the whole match. The whole week I was sick. We got back from Penn State on Monday morning, and right away I got the fever and was sick the whole week. But the whole time I kept telling myself that I'm going to wrestle. It was senior night and I figured possibly the team would need me. I had already missed one match against Illinois. Overcoming it was definitely tough, but everything happens for a reason and I think it's going to help me in March. At NCAAs no one feels one-hundred percent. When I'm down in a match I can think about the time I was feeling terrible and came out on top.
Dylan Ness is currently undefeated and ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)Your team recently dropped consecutive dual meets to Iowa and Ohio State. What was the coaching staff's message to the team after the loss to Ohio State in Columbus?
Ness: I think the main thing is we just didn't wrestle our style, our pace. I think a lot of the matches we let our opponents slow us down and we wrestled their style. It seemed like they just waited until the third period to do something and score and get that last takedown. We ended up losing on some late takedowns. Right now we're kind of transitioning to a different program for each individual to accomplish what we need to individually. We have been kind of on our own, working with our individual coaches and working on certain things we need to improve on.
There's only a month to go until the NCAAs. Does it feel strange knowing that your collegiate wrestling career is nearing its end?
Ness: To tell you the truth it hasn't really hit me. I was asked how I felt after my last home dual against Iowa and how I felt after my last dual on the road against Maryland, and it hasn't felt any different than the last couple years. I don't think it has really hit me yet.
Jayson Ness talks to Dylan Ness during the Minnesota-Iowa dual meet (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)your brother Jayson shared any advice on how to handle the final stretch of your collegiate wrestling career?
Ness: No, he hasn't mentioned anything yet. I'm not struggling. I'm excited. I have had the best run of my career so far. I haven't dropped any matches. I've stayed healthy besides being sick the last couple weeks. I'm sure he has advice if I need it. As of right now, though, I think he sees that I'm doing well and since I'm doing well he doesn't need to say much.
You have a history of performing at your best in the biggest events. What is it about big events that allows you to thrive?
Ness: It seems like the more fans or the bigger the stage the more comfortable I am out there. I think I'm more excited to be out there. I like to put on a show. When there is a big crowd, like at NCAAs, I get less nervous for some reason and more excited to wrestle.
You are part of a senior class at Minnesota that includes four other All-Americans: Chris Dardanes, Nick Dardanes, Logan Storley and Scott Schiller. How special has it been to be able to go through your journey at Minnesota with those teammates?
Ness: It has been a heck of a journey. It has been an awesome experience with the guys. I live with the Dardanes' and Schiller, and Storley is a couple blocks down, and we've always hung out. It has been a great experience. Ever since our freshman or sophomore year we have all been in the lineup together. There have been ups and downs, but we're getting ready to finish on top.
Dylan Ness won 9-1 over Michigan State's Roger Wildmo (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)On paper, Iowa is the favorite to win the title in St. Louis. What's it going to take in March for Minnesota to win the NCAA title?
Ness: I think us seniors need to step up and finish in the top three in our weight classes. Bonus points are going to be crucial. Our five younger guys are going to have to step up and win those close matches at NCAAs, earn All-American honors and score points for the team.
Growing up you were active in the international wrestling styles. You have won national titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman. Do you plan to continue wrestling freestyle or Greco-Roman after your collegiate career is over?
Ness: I'm so focused on this year and winning an NCAA title as a team and individual that I haven't really thought about what I'm going to do with my life after March 21, whether I'm going to keep training and wrestling or get a job. I haven't thought about that at all. All my focus has been on this season and wrestling.
This story also appears in the February 20 issue of The Guillotine. The Guillotine has been covering wrestling in Minnesota since 1971. Its mission is to report and promote wrestling at all levels -- from youth and high school wrestling to college and international level wrestling. Subscribe to The Guillotine.