Bison Look Promising Entering 2012-13 Season
Release: November 06, 2012
As the North Dakota State wrestling program enters its second season under head coach Roger Kish, the Bison are ready to do some climbing in the rankings - both in the Western Wrestling Conference and on the national scene. With a quality mix of experienced returners and promising youth, North Dakota State has the tools to make that climb a reality.
Sprenkle made his second straight national meet appearance in 2012, posting a 33-12 record and nine pins on the season. He won the NCAA West Regional in March, and racked up three wins at the NCAA Championships before bowing out of the tournament one win shy of All-America honors.
Monk was North Dakota State's wins leader in 2011-12, registering a 36-9 record on the year and a 13-2 mark in dual meets. Like Sprenkle, he cruised to a West Regional title in early March and posted three wins at the NCAA Championships, coming up just one victory short of the podium.
Stoll finished strong last season, claiming an at-large bid to the national meet for his first NCAA Championships appearance. His 24 wins ranked third on the squad behind only Monk and Sprenkle.
Each of the three is ranked in the nation's Top 20 in various preseason rankings, with Sprenkle coming in as high as No. 9 and Monk as high as No. 11.
With those three veterans back for another go at the NCAA podium, Kish feels that the leadership of the team is in good hands.
"Our three returning national qualifiers - Trent Sprenkle, Steven Monk and Mac Stoll - have developed into leaders in our program," said Kish. "They've done a great job of helping to move the young guys forward."
The group of young guys that Kish speaks of is a large one this season. The Bison welcomed 10 newcomers to the squad to fill out the first recruiting class of the Kish regime. A majority of the freshmen will wrestle at the lighter weights, with Clay Cathey, Grant Dullinger, Josh Rodriguez, Justin Scherkenbach, Hunter Weber and Devin Wolf all pegged at either 125 or 133 pounds this season.
Other additions to the roster include freshmen Dallen Brauer and Matthew Gray at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively, Colt Castlebury at 184, and redshirt freshman and Fargo native Tyler Lehmann, who will become eligible to compete at 197 pounds after the completion of the first semester.
"We have a great freshman class this year, and they are really buying into the philosophy of what we're trying to do with Bison wrestling and what it means to be a Bison wrestler," noted Kish.
It remains to be seen if any of those freshmen can crack NDSU's dual meet lineup this season, due to the significant bank of starting experience back from a year ago.
Senior Tyler Diamond handled 14 of the 15 Bison duals last season at 141 pounds, and senior Mark Erickson wrestled all 15 duals at 149 pounds. Joe Garner should get a chance to compete closer to his natural weight class of 157 after wrestling up at 174 last season, and John Gusewelle (197) and Evan Knutson (285) will look to improve upon their dual meet records from last year.
Whoever fills the lineup for the Bison will be facing one of the toughest schedules in the school's history. North Dakota State will host preseason No. 16 Boise State, No. 3. Minnesota, and No. 10 Oregon State in the first month of the season. The Bison have also scheduled road duals with Iowa State and Missouri and will return to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Midlands Championships and the Virginia Duals this season.
When late January arrives, the Bison will turn their attention to chasing down defending champion Wyoming at the top of the Western Wrestling Conference standings. NDSU took third as a team at the WWC Championships in 2012.
Kish acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead.
"We have an extremely competitive season coming up," he said. "It's the strongest year of competition that we have ever put together, and we have a lot of good programs to compete with this year."
"We have to keep building our program, and this is a great way for us to do it," Kish continued. "When the end of the year comes, our guys won't be shell-shocked by the opponents that they're going to see. We'll have these big matches under our belt and have an opportunity to compete with the best in the country."
The mix of experience, talented newcomers and a demanding schedule could add up to a big year in the world of Bison wrestling.
Kish believes the preseason competition in the wrestling room is fostering belief that good things are approaching for the Bison.
"I think our boys are starting to buy into it," said Kish. "They can see the talent that exists amongst each other and the work that they're putting in. I think we have bigger goals than just to break into the Top 25."
"We're excited for what's to come. I think it's going to be a great year. We're excited to get started."