The North Dakota State wrestling team (11-7, 4-1 WWC) will travel to Orem, Utah, Saturday, March 8, for the Western Wrestling Conference Tournament/NCAA West Regional. The tournament begins at 1 p.m. (CT) in the UCCU Center, with finals scheduled to start at 7 p.m. (CT).
About the NCAA West Regional
The NCAA has awarded 15 automatic bids for the West Regional/WWC Championships — one in each weight class, plus two at 125 pounds, two at 157 pounds, three at 165 pounds and two at 184 pounds. The WWC had 21 wrestlers named in the final Coaches’ Panel Rankings and Rating Percentage Index (RPI) for the 2013-14 wrestling season.
Looking to Prove Themselves
The Bison went 4-1 in the WWC this season – notching victories against Air Force (41-6), Utah Valley (33-11), Northern Colorado (28-11) and South Dakota State (32-12) – while losing to Wyoming (17-16). Wyoming regained control of the WWC regular season title after NDSU clinched it in 2012-13 with a 5-0 record. The Cowboys have won the regular season title four of the past six seasons.
Bison Optimistic After 2013 West Regional
NDSU will be looking to notch its highest finish ever at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday. The Bison finished a school-best second in 2013 and have alternated fourth- and third-place team finishes every year before last year since joining the WWC in 2007. Trent Sprenkle and current senior Steven Monk both won their respective classes, while junior Kurtis Julson finished third in his weight class. NDSU finished with 76 points, falling by three to Wyoming.
NCAA tournament spots from the NCAA West Regional, like all qualifying events, will be awarded at the WWC Tournament based solely on place-finish. Each qualifying tournament was awarded spots per weight class based on current year data. Each wrestler was measured on the following: Division I winning percentage; rating percentage index (RPI); and coaches’ ranking.
For each wrestler that reached the threshold in at least two of the three categories, his qualifying tournament was awarded a qualifying spot in that weight class. Each qualifying tournament, with automatic qualifying status, was awarded a minimum of one wrestler per weight class, which will go to the tournament champion, even if they did not have any wrestlers reach at least two of the three thresholds.
Five Bison Top-30 in NCAA RPI
Five North Dakota State wrestlers were ranked among the nation’s top 30 in the final NCAA RPI of the 2013-14 season. Senior Steven Monk led the way with a No. 3 ranking at 165 pounds after finishing the regular season with a 29-1 record. Sophomore Hayden Zillmer moved up in the rankings at 174 pounds with a 24-6 record and ranked 10th in the final NCAA coaches’ panel rankings, 12th by Intermat, and 14th by TheOpenMat.com. Junior 184-pounder Kurtis Julson went 20-9 this year and was ranked 18th by TheOpenMat.com, 20th by Intermat, and 23rd in the NCAA coaches’ panel rankings. In the coaches’ panel ranking, junior heavyweight Evan Knutson slots in at 29thand redshirt freshman Tyler Lehmann sits at 30th.
A Top 25 Ranking to Close it Out
The NDSU wrestling team finished the season with a No. 21 ranking in the final Intermat poll of the regular season. The Bison reached all-time high’s in the national rankings this season, ranking 18th in the Intermat team dual rankings and 19th in the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll on Feb. 19, 2014, following NDSU’s 1-2 showing at the NWCA National Duals in Columbus, Ohio.
Monk Moves up the Charts
NDSU senior 165-pounder Steven Monk sits in second all-time on the wrestling wins list for the Bison with 127 career victories on the mat. Monk came into the season with 98 wins and his 22-match winning streak was capped off with a perfect 18-0 dual record. His last loss was a 6-4 decision to Northern Iowa’s Cooper Moore on Nov. 16, 2013. Monk trails Mike Langlais (1980-84) on the all-time wins list. Laglais won 151 matches during his career at 142 pounds.
Eight Ranked Opponents Again
For the second consecutive season, NDSU faced off against eight-ranked opponents in dual action. The Bison picked up two ranked victories this season, defeating No. 20 Oregon State 19-17 in their first matchup in Corvallis, and earning a 28-10 win over No. 19 Chattanooga in the opener of the NWCA National Duals in Columbus. NDSU lost in duals to No. 1 Minnesota, No. 13 Missouri, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 17 Iowa State, No. 17 Northern Iowa, and a rematch to No. 25 Oregon State.
Primed for WWC/NCAA West Regional Action
NDSU seniors Tyler Diamond and Steven Monk wrestled in each Western Wrestling Conference dual and both went 5-0 for the Bison in those matchups at their respective weight classes. Junior Evan Knutson and sophomore Hayden Zillmer also had perfect records, with both not wrestling against Northern Colorado. Bison senior Justin LaValle, junior Kurtis Julson and redshirt freshman Tyler Lehmann each finished 4-1 in WWC duals.