NEWTON, Iowa–North Dakota State University wrestling is ranked No. 18 in Wrestler Insider News Magazine’s 2015-16 Preseason Tournament Power Index, the highest ranking achieved by NDSU in the WIN Magazine’s preseason rankings. In addition, three Bison wrestlers were ranked in the top 14 of their respective weight classes, as announced by WIN Magazine. The preseason rankings do not include freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
NDSU won its second straight NCAA West Region championship and second Western Wrestling Conference regular-season dual title over the past three years in 2015 under the direction of head coach Roger Kish. The Bison were 5-0 in the WWC and 9-4 overall including a 22-21 win by criteria over No. 18-ranked Wyoming. NDSU finished the season ranked 20th in the final USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll.
A new challenge waits North Dakota State wrestling this season. The Bison along with Air Force, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming will join Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia in the Big 12 Conference.
NDSU returns senior NCAA All-American Hayden Zillmer (Crosby, Minn./Crosby-Ironton HS) at 184 pounds, who was one of three Bison ranked in WIN Magazine’s preseason rankings. Junior 125-pound Josh Rodriguez (Guadalupe, Calif./Righetti HS) and 141-pound sophomore Mitch Bengtson (St. Cloud, Minn./Apollo HS) were ranked 13th and 14th, respectively, in their weight classes.
Zillmer compiled a 36-7 record in 2015 including 13-0 in duals with eight pins and four tech falls. He went 5-3 at the 2015 NCAA Championships in St. Louis and improved to 5-5 in two national appearances. Zillmer, representing the Bison Wrestling Club, won the 86 kg (189.6-pound) 2015 UWW Nationals Freestyle championships in May. He is a two-time NCAA West Region champion
Rodriguez went 20-6 last season including a 10-3 dual record. He was named the MVP of the 2015 NCAA West Regional after defeating a pair of nationally-ranked opponents in his competitive 125-pound weight division. Rodriguez compiled a 2-2 in his first trip to NCAA Championships last season.
Bengtson compiled a 25-13 record including 9-4 in duals with nine pins and three major decisions. He went overtime in both matches to win the 2015 NCAA West Region title at 141-pounds. Bengtson went 0-2 in his first NCAA Championships appearance last year.
NDSU and the other affiliate members are eligible immediately and will compete for the Big 12 postseason championship and the league’s automatic qualification to NCAA postseason competition. The 10-team Big 12 wrestling championship will shift to a neutral site and expand to a two-day event with the 2016 championship set for March 5-6 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
[eztable caption=”2015-16 WIN’s Preseason Tournament Power Index (TPI)” width=”500″]
Rank,College,Top 8,TPI Pts
18,North Dakota State,2,24.5