MOORHEAD, Minn. – The Minnesota State University Moorhead Dragons wrestling sat just outside of the Top-20 rankings prior to their upset of No. 10 Upper Iowa, highlighted by senior Evan Forde‘s 3-1 overtime win against No. 4 Kyle Pedretti. The Dragons now enter this year’s NCAA Super III Regional Championships with lots of momentum on their side.
The Dragons finished the dual season with an 8-8 record under second year Head Coach Kris Nelson. The Dragons own two wins over Top-15 teams, including an 18-16 win over No. 13 Grand Canyon and also taking down No. 10 Upper Iowa in the dual season finale 25-17.
After swapping wins and losses early on, the Dragons hit their stride when the worked over Minot State (N.D.) 30-9 on Feb. 8, rattling off four wins in a row and two against NSIC opponents Northern State (S.D.) and No. 10 Upper Iowa.
The Dragons as a group have 189 individual wins and have outscored the opposition 798-766. As a team, the Dragons have outscored their opponents 752-655. Part of the Dragons ability to win close matches is their tough ground game. The Dragons have a 30-16 edge on three-point nearfalls and a 46-14 edge in reversals.
What A Difference A Year Makes
Entering the regional tournament last season, the Dragons had little momentum in their favor, winning two of their final eight duals. Just one year later, Coach Nelson’s Dragons are winners of their last four duals to finish of the season.
Junior Corey Ulmer has already matched his 21-win mark he set last season, a career-high for Ulmer. Ulmer has also dropped his losses from 11 prior to regionals last season to just four this year; including two against NCAA Division-I opponents and the current top two NCAA Division-II wrestlers.
Senior Evan Forde is in good position to surpass his 18 wins a season ago, entering regionals with 15 wins thus far. Another potential top seed in the regionals will be Brady Schneeberger, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation. Last season, the 17-17 Schneeberger stunned spectators; becoming the only none No. 1 seed to win the tournament with his initial sixth seed. Since regionals, Schneeberger owns a pair of wins over last year’s NCAA Division-II National Champion, Jay Sherer of Augustana (S.D.).
Largely inactive last season, Tyler Steinwand was asked to fill the shoes of All-American Derek Bomstad this season. Steinwand, a 3-1 record at 149 pounds last year, has been on a hot streak as of late. The junior has a 14-11 record and has won his last six matches in a row.
Tallen Wald has flourished as a captain, posting an 18-10 record at 157 pounds heading into the postseason, a great improvement over his 13-14 finish last season. Wald was ranked No. 7 in the nation on Feb. 3 but since then has dropped out of the rankings despite winning all five matches since that poll was released. Wald is also peaking at the right time for the Dragons, winning five in a row and eight of his last 10 matches.
Another improving wrestler of the Dragons has been sophomore Tyler Kivel. After posting only six wins at 165 pounds last season, Kivel has doubled his wins and cut his losses by more than half. Kivel currently holds a 12-5 record, a far cry from 6-12 in 2009-10. Kivel has been scorching for the Dragons, winning eight of his last nine matches and has provided a reliable option for Coach Nelson at 165 pounds.
A resurgence may be in order for newcomer Trent Sovde, who came to the Dragons from North Dakota State a season ago. Sovde has filled the void left by Jarret Hall last season with a 14-12 record so far. Sovde wrestled well in the open season, going 6-3 with no more than one loss in any tournament.
True freshman Kody Kalkbrenner has already shown that he will be a force in the NSIC for years to come, posting an 8-5 record at 184 pounds. Kalkbrenner put on a clinic at the Dragon Open in December, winning the underclassman division with a 3-0 record and has also won his last two matches.
Sophomore Brian Woelfel will be looking to prove his worth at 197 pounds, a weight class that features four top eight wrestlers in the nation. Woelfel stepped in this year for Jon Swart, who is the Dragons’ current heavyweight. Woelfel enters the regionals with a current record of 7-16.
The biggest turn around belongs to senior Jon Swart. Swart, who struggled cutting weight in 2009-10, has shown that a full offseason dedicated to wrestling can be largely beneficial. Swart took a 3-15 record at 197 and has turned it around into a 15-win season at a loaded weight class.
Swart has taken on three of the top four heavyweights in the nation, barely falling to No. 1 Jacob Kahnke of St. Cloud State and nearly defeating No. 2 Matt Meuleners of Northern State (S.D.). The last time out, Swart took on No. 4 Zach Rosol of Upper Iowa but left early with a medical forfeit.
Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and Dragons Honors
The Dragons’ Corey Ulmer was named Wrestler of the Week on Dec. 7 after winning the 125-pound championship at the Dragon Open. Ulmer is also a two-time MSUM Male Athlete of the Week. Senior Evan Forde was the last Wrestler of the Week after defeating No. 4 Kyle Pedretti in his last match. Forde is also a two-time MSUM Male Athlete of the Week, along with Brady Schneeberger who earned the honor on Jan. 10.
The 2010 Regionals
The Dragons finished in fifth place at last year’s regional tournament and had five national qualifiers. Corey Ulmer finished in fourth place with a 6-3 win over Matt Garcia of Mary (N.D.), while Derek Bomstad finished in second place at 149 pounds.
Departing seniors Jarret Hall (174 pounds) and Tim Johnson (heavyweight) each finished third to advance to nationals. The biggest day belonged to Brady Schneeberger, the sixth seeded 141-pounder, who pinned Jay Sherer with only 15 seconds left in regulation. Full coverage of last year’s regional tournament can be found here.
The Regionals Have Expanded
This year’s NCAA Super III Regionals will include three more teams battling for the same top four spots. The realignment has paired the eight NSIC teams with Wisconsin-Parkside, Indianapolis and Newman (Kan.).
125 No. 3 Corey Ulmer (21-4) – Super III Regional No. 2
133 Evan Forde (15-12) – Super III Regional No. 5
141 No. 3 Brady Schneeberger (10-9) – Super III Regional No. 1
149 Tyler Steinwand (14-11)
157 Tallen Wald (18-10) – Super III Regional No. 6
165 Tyler Kivel (12-5)
174 Trent Sovde (14-12) – Super III Regional No. 6
184 Kody Kalkbrenner (8-5)
197 Brian Woelfel (7-16)
285 Jon Swart (15-11) – Super III Regional No. 5
Dragons in the Rankings
The Dragons as a team were receiving votes in the last poll that came out on Feb. 16. In the two previous polls the Dragons were ranked No. 20 in the nation. Corey Ulmer and Brady Schneeberger both currently sit third in the nation. Ulmer currently holds the second seed to Upper Iowa’s Trevor Franklin. Brady Schneeberger sits as the current top seed in the Super III Region.
According to the Coaches
The Dragons were picked to finish fifth along with Southwest Minnesota State in the 2010-11 NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Dragons received 14 points, 10 behind Upper Iowa picked fourth.
|1.||St. Cloud State||67|
|Southwest Minn. State||14|
Head Coach Kris Nelson is in his second season as the leader of the Dragons wrestling program. Nelson joined the Dragons’ Nation in 2009 after serving as an assistant coach for North Dakota State for nine seasons. Nelson is assisted by Josh Kerbaugh and Nate Baker. Kerbaugh became the youngest head coach in the nation in 2002, taking over for five seasons. Baker has been an assistant coach for the past three seasons after becoming the Dragons last national champion in 2006.
2011 Super Regional Three Championships
Augustana College (S.D.) will be hosting the championships this season inside the Elmen Center. The matches are schedule to begin at 10 a.m. on Feb. 27 with the doors opening at 9 a.m. The full championship coverage can be viewed at the following link.