MOORHEAD, Minn. — A trip to nationals by junior Angel Vega and a solid 8-8 dual record highlighted the 2012-13 season for the Minnesota State University wrestling team. The eight wins tied for the most in a dual season in the four seasons under Head Coach Kris Nelson.
The Dragons also had close calls in duals against nationally-ranked foes Grand Canyon (22-19) and Minnesota State, Mankato (24-19), along with losing a tough contest to Southwest Minnesota State, 20-15.
“We had seven new starters in the lineup who gained valuable experience wrestling in the NSIC and Super Regional 3,” Nelson said. “We finished the season with an 8-8 record which I felt we let a couple of duals slip away from us, but we were competitive in a majority of the duals this season.”
Vega, a junior from Olivehurst, Calif., had a strong season for the Dragons at 141 pounds. He led the team in wins with 25 and finished with a 25-15 mark. He finished fourth at Super Regional 3 to qualify for the Division II National Championships.
“Angel Vega had a solid season with some great wins,” Nelson said. “We look forward to him competing at the 141-pound weight class again next season.”
Another solid season came from sophomore Philippe Walker, who also surpassed 20 wins and finished with a 21-12 mark at 133 pounds.
“Philippe will be very competitive again next season at 133 pounds and has the ability to be an All-American,” Nelson said.
Junior Matt Lewellen (197 pounds) and sophomore Gerad Fugleberg (285 pounds) each had 17-15 marks for MSUM, while redshirt freshman Jesse Puncochar (174) was 14-10.
MSUM will lose two seniors from this year’s team — Jacob Bennett (who was 11-10 at 157 pounds) and Kerron Williams (10-12 at 165). The Dragons are slated to return a majority of their lineup, with several redshirts also seeking to challenge for spots next year, including Austin Leibel, Isaac Novacek and Conner Monk, who all competed unattached this year.
“We only lose two starters from this year’s team so we are looking to of course improve on this past season,” Nelson said. “We redshirted some individuals this past season who I feel will push for starting spots. Austin Leibel has shown that he can compete with the top wrestlers; we look for him to wrestle at 133 next season. Isaac Novacek was recruited to wrestle at 125 but has grown and we look for him to challenge for a starting spot at 141 pounds. Conner Monk had 30 matches unattached this year and will compete for the starting position at 174 pounds.”
The Dragons will sign recruits this spring to join the returnees.
“I feel this group is a hard-working group that will continue to work hard this spring and summer and take this year’s valuable experience into next season,” Nelson said.