Jackrabbits open season in Fargo

The South Dakota State University wrestling team will open the 2019-20 campaign Saturday by competing in the Bison Open.

Competition is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Scheels Center on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo, North Dakota. Coverage of the day-long event will be available through TrackWrestling.com (subscription required for video).

More than 20 Jackrabbit wrestlers are expected to compete in the tournament, which also will feature Division I wrestlers from Minnesota and North Dakota State. Rounding out the field are wrestlers from regional NCAA Division II, NAIA, and junior college programs.

2018 BISON OPEN RECAP: First-year wrestlers Clay Carlson and Tanner Sloan each won individual titles to pace the South Dakota State University wrestling team during action at the 2018 Bison Open.

Carlson claimed the 141-pound title, while Sloan reached the championship round for the second tournament in a row, this time winning the 197-pound division.

A native of Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson pulled out a 3-2 victory via tiebreaker against Arizona State’s Cory Crooks in the championship match. After receiving a first-round bye, Carlson advanced to the title round after posting decisions over host North Dakota State’s Samuel Stuhl and Sawyer Degen by respective scores of 9-5 and 4-2.

Sloan, from Alburnett, Iowa, continued his impressive start to his collegiate career by defeating a pair of wrestlers from the University of Minnesota in his final two matches. He opened the day with a 20-3 technical fall against Jake Erckenbrack of Minnesota State, Moorhead, then recorded a 9-5 decision over Garrett Joles of Minnesota in the semifinals. Sloan dominated his title match against Minnesota’s Bobby Steveson, winning by technical fall by a 16-1 margin.

Also at 141 pounds, fellow freshman Zach Price finished third by winning his final four matches. Laken Cook added a third-place effort in the 157-pound weight class.

Other placewinners for the Jackrabbits were Kenny O’Neil, fifth and 165 pounds, and Peyton Smith, sixth at 149.

RABBITS RANKED: Jackrabbit wrestlers Henry Pohlmeyer at 149 pounds and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan appear in a variety of national individual rankings entering the Jackrabbits’ first action of the 2019-20 season.

A two-time NCAA qualifier and a senior from Johnston, Iowa, Pohlmeyer’s highest ranking is 16th by FloWrestling. Pohlmeyer also is currently ranked 20th by Intermat and 25th by TrackWrestling.

Sloan, a redshirt freshman from Alburnett, Iowa, is ranked in the top 10 by all three media outlets. He is ranked fifth by FloWrestling, sixth by Intermat and ninth by TrackWrestling.

SEASON PREVIEW: South Dakota State continues its building process under head coach Damion Hahn, who is in his second season at the helm of a program that has its sights on returning to conference and national prominence.

The Jackrabbits return nearly their entire starting lineup from a season ago, but Hahn said the level of competition in the practice room has been raised with the addition of 14 newcomers along with steady improvement by a number of younger returning wrestlers.

Hahn said the team is committed to redshirting most – if not all – of the incoming freshman class.

Lower Weights (125-141)
A number of young wrestlers will compete for starting roles in the lower three weights.

At 125 pounds, incumbent starter Gregory Coapstick is likely to redshirt during the upcoming season, leaving the lineup spot likely up for grabs between junior Danny Vega and senior Kahlen Morris. Vega transferred to SDSU from Iowa State, while Morris has not wrestled the past two seasons, redshirting one while sitting out the 2018-19 campaign due to injury.

Redshirt freshman Zach Price has the early hold on the 133-pound lineup spot. Price turned in a 20-8 record in open tournaments a year ago. Incoming freshmen Trayton Anderson, Caleb Gross, and Daniel Kimball will provide depth as needed throughout the season.

In the 141-pound division, redshirt freshman Clay Carlson is poised to crack the starting lineup. The Willmar, Minnesota, native went 29-5 in open competition a year ago. Rylee Molitor, who started much of the 2018-19 season at 133 pounds, and returning starter Aric Williams also are in the mix at 141.

Middle Weights (149-174)
Two-time NCAA qualifier Henry Pohlmeyer leads the Jackrabbits in the middle weights. A senior from Johnston, Iowa, Pohlmeyer recorded a 20-15 overall mark last season and leads active Jackrabbit wrestlers in career wins with a 54-36 record.

Also returning from last season’s starting lineup is 157-pounder Colten Carlson. A junior, Carlson showed steady improvement during his sophomore season, turning in a 12-14 overall record.

Also returning at 157 pounds are senior Laken Cook and redshirt freshman Dalton Lakmann.

The lone spot in the lineup without a returning starter is at 165 pounds, where the Jackrabbits will seek a replacement for the graduated Logan Peterson. An early favorite to fill the position is redshirt freshman Kenny O’Neil, who compiled a 28-13 record in open competitions last season.

Other returners at 165 include junior Garrett Jordan and sophomore Kelby Hawkins.

The 174-pound slot could undergo some changes as senior Martin Mueller is expected to drop down two weights after wrestling at 197 pounds during an injury-plagued 2018-19 season. Mueller qualified for the 2018 NCAA Championships at 184 pounds as a sophomore and brings a 46-34 career record into his senior campaign.

Also returning at 174 pounds are last year’s starter, sophomore Samuel Grove, along with fellow sophomore Devon Sievers.

Upper Weights (184-HWT)
The Jackrabbits figure to be strong in the top three weight classes, which includes returning starters in Zach Carlson (184) and Blake Wolters (HWT).

Carlson put together a breakthrough season during the 2018-19 campaign, narrowly missing out on an at-large berth to the NCAA Championships. A senior from Murdock, Minnesota, Carlson finished with a 22-9 overall record and team-best 9-4 mark in duals in his first full season in the starting lineup.

Wolters posted a 13-20 record in his first season as the starter at heavyweight and will be joined by sophomore Alex Aarsvold, redshirt freshman Bowen McConville, and true freshman Spencer Trenary.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Jackrabbit lineup this season will be 197-pounder Tanner Sloan. The Alburnett, Iowa, native posted a 24-2 record in open tournaments last season, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Midlands Championships in December. Sloan carried that momentum into freestyle competition at the juniors level, winning the United World Wrestling World Team trials and a gold medal at the Pan-American Championships. He later represented Team USA at the UWW Junior World Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Schedule
Eight home competitions and a pair of high-level tournaments highlight the 2019-20 schedule for the South Dakota State University wrestling team.

“I really like the schedule we’ve been able to put together for this season,” said Hahn. “It has a good mix of traditional rivals while further exposing our guys to more elite-level competition throughout the year, which should prepare us come postseason time in March.”

The season kicks off Nov. 9 at the Bison Open in Fargo, North Dakota, followed by a Nov. 15 dual against Binghamton, which will be part of a doubleheader at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls with the Jackrabbit women’s basketball team.

The first home competition of the 2019-20 season is slated for Nov. 17, when the Jackrabbits host the Warren Williamson/ Daktronics Open. The day-long tournament will be held at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex for the second year in a row.

SDSU closes out November with its first Big 12 Conference dual of the season, at Utah Valley on Nov. 22.

The December slate is a challenging one in which the Jackrabbits will book-end trips to the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas Dec. 6-7 and the South Beach Duals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dec. 29-30 around a Dec. 20 home dual against Minnesota. The Cliff Keen Invitational has taken on the mantle of being the top individual tournament before the NCAA Championships, while the South Beach Duals has attracted some of the top teams in the country in its first two years. SDSU will wrestle four times at the South Beach Duals.

The Jackrabbits will host three Big 12 duals in a row in January, welcoming Wyoming (Jan. 12), Iowa State (Jan. 17) and Oklahoma (Jan. 26) to Frost Arena. Rounding out the home schedule are duals versus Fresno State (Feb. 15), Stanford (Feb. 16) and North Dakota State (Feb. 21). Currently, five Big 12 schools are ranked in the NWCA Top 25.

SDSU will wrestle a total of nine Big 12 opponents during the dual season, including traveling to Northern Iowa (Jan. 10), Oklahoma State (Jan. 31) and West Virginia (Feb. 7).

The remainder of the dual schedule includes road matches at newcomer UA Little Rock (Feb. 2) and at Ohio (Feb. 9).

Postseason competition kicks off with the Big 12 Wrestling Championship March 7-8 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are set for March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

COACH HAHN: Damion Hahn, who helped build Cornell into a national power as an assistant coach, was hired on April 9, 2018, to lead the South Dakota University wrestling program.

“Damion represents everything we are looking for in being able to take our wrestling program to the next level,” said SDSU Director of Athletics Justin Sell in announcing the hire. “His success both as a collegiate wrestler and coach, along with his ability to recruit high-achieving student-athletes on and off the mat, made him the ideal candidate. He is a tremendous ambassador for the sport who will work tirelessly to ensure wrestling thrives both on our campus and across the country.”

During his first season with the Jackrabbits, Hahn faced a rebuilding task as SDSU featured new starters in six spots in the lineup. SDSU finished with a 3-10 dual record, including a 2-7 mark against Big 12 Conference opponents.

The Jackrabbits ended the 2018-19 season with a 10th-place finish at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship and had one NCAA qualifier in 149-pounder Henry Pohlmeyer.

Hahn spent 12 years as an assistant coach and later the associate head coach at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. During his tenure, the Big Red recorded 11 top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including consecutive runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011. He mentored 50 All-Americans, 12 of whom were individual NCAA champions. Cornell also won 12 straight Ivy League dual championships and 11 consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association team titles.

In accepting his first head coaching position, Hahn made a return to the Midwest. As a collegiate wrestler at Minnesota, Hahn won NCAA individual national titles as a junior and senior. A four-time All-American, he also was a three-time Big 10 individual champion and was named the Jesse Owens Big 10 Male Athlete of the Year in 2004. The Golden Gophers won team NCAA championships during both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He finished his collegiate career with a 118-21 record.

Hahn was inducted into the University of Minnesota’s M Club Hall of Fame in 2018.

THE ROSTER: The 2019-20 SDSU wrestling roster features 36 student-athletes from 12 different states. Of the 36 wrestlers, 10 are from Minnesota, followed by nine who are native South Dakotans. Iowa is represented by seven wrestlers, while two wrestlers hail from New York. Eight states – Arizona, California, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin – each have one wrestler.

By class, five are seniors, four are juniors, eight are sophomores, seven are redshirt freshmen and 12 are incoming freshmen.

A LOOK AHEAD: SDSU scheduled to open the dual portion of their schedule Nov. 15 by taking on Binghamton. The dual, which is part of a doubleheader with the Jackrabbit women’s basketball team, will be held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, with action starting at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets can be ordered at Ticketmaster.com or at the Sanford Pentagon box office.

The Jackrabbits close out the weekend by hosting the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open Nov. 17 at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Competition is slated to begin at 9 a.m.

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