LARAMIE, Wyo. – The North Dakota State wrestling team earned its highest finish ever at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday, claiming second place as a team. Junior Steven Monk (165 pounds) and senior Trent Sprenkle (125 pounds) both won their respective weight classes to lock up automatic berths in the NCAA Championships.
Wyoming wrestlers won three of the final four weight classes to rally to a fourth-consecutive tournament title with 79 points. The Bison were second with 76 points, and Utah Valley claimed third with 70.
NDSU’s previous high finish was third place in 2008, 2010 and 2012. In 2012, the Bison totaled 51.5 points in the tourney that also serves as the Western Wrestling Conference Tournament.
Sprenkle was named the NCAA West Regional/WWC’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. NDSU head coach Roger Kish received the WWC Coach of the Year award.
Sprenkle will be making his third straight NCAA Championships appearance after cruising to a 3-0 tourney record. He defeated Aaron Pickrel of South Dakota State by 12-2 major decision, pinned Utah Valley’s Jade Rauser in 4:30, and defeated No. 11 Josh Martinez of Air Force by 6-2 decision in the final of the 125-pound bracket.
Monk rolled to his second consecutive West Regional title, and his first at 165 pounds after moving up from 157 pounds in 2012. He posted a 15-0 technical fall of Wyoming’s Dakota Friesth in the semifinals and pinned Abner Cook of Utah Valley in the first period of the championship match.
Freshman Josh Rodriguez (133), senior Mac Stoll (184), senior Kallen Kleinschmidt (197) and sophomore Evan Knutson (285) all earned runner-up finishes. Mark Erickson (141) and Kurtis Julson (174) both placed third.
Although Sprenkle and Monk are NDSU’s only automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Championships, at-large selections are still to be announced. After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 13.
All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers. The at-large selections will be made based on the following criteria: head-to-head competition; qualifying event placement; quality wins; results against common opponents; winning percentage; RPI; coaches’ ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class.
The three-day NCAA Championships will be held March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, at Wells Fargo Arena.