By Nick Couzin, KVRR Sports
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State Wrestling finished both their regular season and had the opportunity to compete in the Big 12 championships. However, the Bison were two days away from their six NCAA Championship qualifiers competing for titles before the NCAA canceled the championships due to COVID-19.
The emotion of a cancelled championships reached far more than just the six who were about to hit the mats.
“It’s never an easy conversation. It’s really not just the six qualifiers that are devastated its a team out there,” head coach Roger Kish said. “Our guys who didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament or guys who aren’t in the starting lineup necessarily. These are guys, their whole goal here is to help their friends and teammates and their brothers.”
Of the six qualifiers, three of them were seniors in Cam Sykora, Andrew Fogarty and Cordell Eaton, who won’t get the chance to go out on a high note, with the four years of work put it in, made it that much harder for head coach Roger Kish to deliver the message.
“Not what you want to have happen,” Kish said. “You put in a lot of work and effort and watch these young men give everything they’ve got week in and week out to reach that pinnacle of wrestling. We had a lot of conversations about how our season went down. It’s ultimately a marathon and not a sprint. This year was a little different.”
Even though those three didn’t get a chance to complete their goals of being on the podium, coach Kish says there’s so much he’s thankful for what they’ve accomplished.
“These guys have really built a foundation that we’re so proud of,” Kish said. “What they’ve been able to accomplish and what they’re all about really really helped us grow as a program. These guys developed a culture here. A culture that is so strong. Its been fun as a coach to sit back and watch your leadership take over the program.”
Going forward with school and facilities closed, there are many other ways the coaching staff is supporting and keeping their wrestlers mentally sharp from afar.
“Watching video. Starting to ask these guys to be students of wrestling,” Kish said. “Watch their matches. Watch matches of others to allow them to gain a little more wrestling and wrestling savviness and to journal all this information and talk about it.”
Six qualifiers for the NCAA Championships is tied for the most in the program’s history. Three were making their first appearances including West Fargo Packer alums, freshman Jared Franek and sophomore Brandon Metz. Cordell Eaton in his final season was set to make his debut. Fogarty and Sykora, the other two seniors, would’ve made it all four years heading to the championships.
Sad to not see them all get the chance to compete one last time on the mats, especially those three seniors.