The South Dakota State wrestling team opens the home portion of its schedule and also kicks off the 2021-22 dual slate with a pair of events this weekend at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits begin the weekend by hosting in-state NCAA Division II programs Northern State and Augustana in a triangular Friday. Northern and Augie square off at 4:30 p.m., followed by South Dakota State and Northern at 6 p.m., with the Jackrabbits meeting Augustana at 7:30 p.m. to close out the triangular.
On Sunday, SDSU hosts the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open. Action on five mats is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. The day-long event will feature regional Division I programs from SDSU, North Dakota State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northern Iowa, as well as a number of wrestlers from lower-level regional schools.
Live video coverage of both of this weekend’s events will be available through the FloWrestling subscription service.
THE SERIES: South Dakota State has dominated the all-time series against both Augustana and Northern State, going a combined 70-17-1 against the in-state foes.
Against Augustana, the Jackrabbits lead the all-time series, 39-16, and have won the last five matchups. The two programs last met at the South Dakota Showcase in Spearfish during the 2017-18 season, with SDSU recording a 49-0 victory.
The Vikings’ last victory in the series was a 30-7 triumph in Brookings during the 2003-04 season, in what was SDSU’s final campaign as an NCAA Division II program.
SDSU will bring a 31-1-1 all-time mark against Northern State into its dual with the Wolves on Friday. The Jackrabbits won the first 26 meetings until Northern snapped the streak with an 18-16 victory in Brookings during the 2007-08 season. Since then, the two squads wrestled to a 19-all tie during the 2010-11 season and the Jackrabbits have won five duals, including a 45-5 victory at the 2017-18 Dakota Showcase in Spearfish in what is the last meeting between the two programs.
BISON OPEN RECAP: Returning All-American Clay Carlson won the 141-pound title and three other South Dakota State wrestlers reached the finals in their respective weight classes at the season-opening Bison Open Nov. 13 in Fargo, North Dakota.
A junior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson posted a 4-0 record in the day-long event at Scheels Center. He opened with a first-period pin against Lincoln Stormer of Minot State, then moved to the semifinals with a 20-5 technical fall over North Dakota State’s Sam Stuhl.
Carlson advanced to the finals with a 4-3 decision over Jakob Bergeland of Minnesota, then downed NDSU’s Dylan Droegemueller, 3-1, in the championship bout.
Also advancing to the finals were sophomore 125-pounder Tanner Jordan, Cade DeVos at 174 pounds, and heavyweight A.J. Nevills.
Jordan recorded three victories on the day, winning his first two matches by a combined 24-0 before posting a 5-3 decision over Carlos Negrete Jr. of North Dakota State in the semifinals. For the title, Jordan squared off against Minnesota’s Pat McKee, who came away with an 11-3 major decision.
Adding a third-place finish for the Jackrabbits at 125 pounds in his collegiate debut was freshman Bailey Roybal. The Waverly, Iowa, native turned in a 4-1 record, with his only loss coming at the hands of McKee in the semifinals.
Another incoming freshman, Cael Swensen, took third at 157 pounds.
A returning NCAA qualifier, DeVos was the second Jackrabbit to reach the finals, reeling off four consecutive victories in the 174-pound division. After pulling out a 7-5 overtime decision against the University of Mary’s Max Bruss in his opening match, DeVos won by technical fall and pair of decisions to reach the finals. He was to meet Minnesota’s Jared Krattiger in the finals, but withdrew from the tournament prior to the championship bout.
Nevills, a transfer from Fresno State, won by fall in his first match as a Jackrabbit, then claimed victories by technical fall and decision over a pair of North Dakota State wrestlers before running up against NDSU starter Brandon Metz in the finals. Metz would come away with the title with a first-period fall over Nevills.
Fellow Jackrabbit heavyweight Bowen McConville placed fourth with a 3-2 record.
Several other SDSU wrestlers placed in the top six of their respective weight classes.
133: Trayton Anderson, fourth, and Caleb Gross, sixth;
149: Daniel Kimball and Zach Price, tied for third;
157: Jack Thomsen and Kenny O’Neil, tied for fifth;
165: Connor Gaynor, fifth;
184: Tate Battani and Sam Kruger, tied for third, and Jacob Schoon, fifth;
197: Nick Casperson, third, and Cody Donnelly, fifth.
RABBITS RANKED: All six of South Dakota State’s returning NCAA qualifiers remain in the national rankings after the first weekend of competition.
Following his victory at the Bison Open, returning All-American holds the highest individual ranking by a Jackrabbit, checking in at No. 7 in the 141-pound rankings conducted by Intermat. Carlson also is ranked 10th by both WIN Magazine and The Open Mat, and holds a No. 11 ranking from FloWrestling.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Tanner Sloan also has a top-10 ranking in the 197-pound division with an eighth-place showing in the Intermat poll. Sloan, who is expected to be sidelined until start of the calendar year, is ranked 12th by The Open Mat and 13th by both WIN Magazine and FloWrestling.
Tanner Cook is next in the rankings for the Jackrabbits with 13th-place selections by Intermat and WIN Magazine at 165 pounds. He also is ranked 20th by FloWrestling.
After a successful debut at 174 pounds by reaching the finals at the Bison Open, Cade DeVos inched up the rankings to 17th by both FloWrestling and Intermat, along with 19th-place showings in the WIN Magazine and The Open Mat polls.
At heavyweight. A.J. Nevills checks in at No. 18 by The Open Mat and 24th by both FloWrestling and Intermat.
Zach Price rounds out the rankings at 149 pounds with a 24th-place showing in the FloWrestling rankings and 28th in the Intermat standings.
As a team, the Jackrabbits are ranked 23rd in Intermat’s team dual poll and 25th in the organization’s tournament rankings. SDSU also is ranked 33rd in WIN Magazine’s Tournament Power Index.
BIG 12 SUCCESS: Now in its seventh season as an affiliate member of the Big 12 Conference for wrestling, South Dakota State has proven it can contend in one of the top wrestling leagues in the country.
Since joining the league at the start of the 2015-16 season, the Jackrabbits have combined to post a 32-18 record (.640 winning percentage) in duals against Big 12 opponents, with seven of those losses coming during the 2018-19 campaign. SDSU posted an 8-0 mark in Big 12 duals during the 2017-18 season.
The Jackrabbits also turned in back-to-back third-place efforts at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship in both 2017 and 2018, after a fourth-place finish at their inaugural league meet in 2016. SDSU posted another fourth-place finish in 2020, improving six spots in the team standings from the previous season.
NEW FACILITY ON THE HORIZON: Ground was broken in September for a new $4 million on-campus wrestling training facility.
The nearly 16,000-square-foot Kurtenbach Family Wrestling Center is being constructed on the southwest corner of the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Former SDSU wrestler and coach Frank Kurtenbach provided the lead gift for the facility, which will feature four competition mats, plus a strength and conditioning area, locker rooms, team room, coaches’ offices, and spaces for academics and nutrition.
“The approval from the Board of Regents to break ground on a state-of-the-art wrestling facility will forever change the landscape of SDSU Wrestling,” SDSU head coach Damion Hahn said. “I can’t thank our Jackrabbit family enough for the contributions that have been made toward this endeavor. I would like to make a special thank you to the Kurtenbach family for their vision and support of the project.”
The South Dakota Board of Regents approved plans for the project in December 2020. The facility is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.
ZILVERBERG, MUELLER JOIN STAFF: Former South Dakota State standouts Luke Zilverberg and Martin Mueller have returned to the Jackrabbit wrestling program in support roles, head coach Damion Hahn announced.
“It’s great to have two guys who know what it takes to be successful on the mat stay connected with our program,” Hahn said. “I’m excited to have our whole staff together as we work to continue to elevate Jackrabbit Wrestling.”
Zilverberg will fill the role of recruiting coordinator. A native of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, he was a four-year starter from 2015-18 and was a two-time NCAA qualifier. He completed his career with a 99-48 overall record and earned All-America honors at 157 pounds as a senior, placing eighth.
Mueller joins the staff as a graduate assistant. The Rapid City native was a two-year starter at 184 pounds and earned a berth to the national meet during the 2017-18 season. He completed his career with a 46-34 record.
COACH HAHN: Damion Hahn is overseeing a successful rebuilding of South Dakota State University wrestling as he begins his fourth season at the helm of the Jackrabbits’ program. Hahn holds a 20-22 career dual record entering the 2021-22 campaign.
During the 2019-20 season, the Jackrabbits returned to the winning side of the ledger in dual competition by posting a 12-6 overall record, including a 6-3 mark in the Big 12. Included in the dual victories were wins over nationally-ranked Northern Iowa and Stanford.
SDSU also improved by six spots in the Big 12 Conference Wrestling Championship, finishing fourth in the team standings at the 2020 competition. Four Jackrabbit wrestlers earned automatic qualifying berths in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, with another receiving a bid as an alternate. The NCAA Championships were later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the National Wrestling Coaches Association selected 149-pounder Henry Pohlmeyer, 184-pounder Zach Carlson, and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan as second-team All-Americans.
In his first season at SDSU, Hahn faced a rebuilding task as the Jackrabbits featured new starters in six spots in the lineup. SDSU finished with a 3-10 dual mark, including a 2-7 record against Big 12 foes. Pohlmeyer was the lone NCAA qualifier.
Hahn was hired at SDSU on April 9, 2018, following more than a decade of success as a member of the coaching staff at Cornell (N.Y.).
“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.”
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 2021-22 SDSU wrestling roster features 36 student-athletes from 13 different states. Of the 36 wrestlers, 10 are from Iowa, followed by seven from Minnesota and six native South Dakotans. Two Jackrabbit wrestlers hail from Ohio, Wisconsin, and California, while seven states — Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington — each are represented by one wrestler.
By class, two are seniors, 10 are juniors, 11 are sophomores, one is a redshirt freshman and 12 are incoming freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits resume dual action Nov. 28 at Minnesota. Start time is set for 1 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion on the U of M campus in Minneapolis.
Non-starters are scheduled to compete Nov. 28 at the Cyclone Open in Ames, Iowa, with action starting at 9 a.m.