EVANSTON, Ill. - North Dakota State junior Steven Monk and senior Trent Sprenkle each earned top-five finishes at the prestigious Midlands Championships on Sunday to help the Bison to a ninth-place team finish. Monk placed fourth at 165 pounds and Sprenkle took fifth at 125 pounds, while redshirt freshman Hayden Zillmer claimed eighth place at 157 pounds.
The Bison scored 57 team points to earn a ninth-place finish out of 34 Division I schools - an improvement of 15.5 points and seven places over one year ago. NDSU finished in front of seven schools currently ranked in the national coaches' poll, including No. 13 Pittsburgh, No. 17 Nebraska, No. 18 (tied) Edinboro, No. 18 (tied) Maryland, No. 21 Purdue, No. 22 Penn and No. 23 Wisconsin.
The No. 6-ranked and No. 4-seeded Monk lost just his second match of the season in the semifinals by 5-3 decision to top-seeded Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, an unattached post-collegiate wrestler from Clarion University. Monk bounced back to defeat No. 11 Mark Lewandowski of Buffalo 6-0 to earn a spot in the third-place match, but he fell to No. 3 Pete Yates of Virginia Tech by a 4-0 decision and finished in fourth place.
Monk took fourth place at 157 pounds at the 2011 Midlands Championships. With the win over Lewandowski on Sunday, Monk (19-3) now owns four victories over opponents ranked in the nation's top 11 this season. His two losses to collegiate wrestlers have come against the No. 1 and No. 3 wrestlers in the country.
The No. 4-ranked and No. 5-seeded Sprenkle opened the second day of the tournament with decisions over Sean Boyle of Michigan and top-seeded Anthony Zanetta (unattached, Pittsburgh). Sprenkle wrestled unattached Cory Clark of Iowa for a spot in the third-place match and fell, 6-1, before pinning No. 6-seeded Jarrod Patterson (unattached, Oklahoma) in 2:15 for fifth place.
Sprenkle placed eighth in the 125-pound weight class at last year's event.
Redshirt freshman Hayden Zillmer took eighth place at 157 pounds to wrap up his first appearance at the Midlands Championships. Zillmer posted a 5-3 record for the tournament, winning by medical forfeit over No. 3-ranked and No. 2-seeded James Fleming of Clarion in the consolation bracket today.
Both of Zillmer's losses on Sunday were to wrestlers ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Zillmer dropped a 6-3 decision to No. 7 Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech and fell by 8-0 major decision to No. 14 Matt Lester of Oklahoma in the seventh-place match.
Monk and Sprenkle were the only two Bison to place at the Midlands Championships last season, as they took fourth and eighth place, respectively. NDSU scored 41.5 points to tie for 16th place as a team last season.
Illinois claimed the team title with 99.5 points. Virginia Tech took runner-up honors with 97.5 points.
North Dakota State will return to action at the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va., on Jan. 11-12.
Midlands Results - NDSU Individuals
125 - Trent Sprenkle, 5-2, 5th place
133 - Josh Rodriguez, 0-2
141 - Mark Erickson, 2-2
149 - Joe Garner, 3-2
157 - Hayden Zillmer, 5-3, 8th place
165 - Steven Monk, 4-2, 4th place
174 - Kurtis Julson, 1-2
184 - Mac Stoll, 3-2
197 - Kallen Kleinschmidt, 1-2
285 - Evan Knutson, 3-2
Trent Sprenkle on the podium for the 125-pound awards ceremony.