Four South Dakota State wrestlers will vie for individual championships and All-America accolades during competition this week at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Competition begins Thursday morning and runs through Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit, Michigan. Morning sessions begin at noon Eastern Time (11 a.m. Central) on Thursday and 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. CT) both Friday and Saturday. Evening sessions Thursday and Saturday are slated to start at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT), with Friday’s night session set to begin at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT).
Television coverage of the early sessions each day will be on ESPNU, with coverage shifting to ESPN for the night sessions. Coverage of all mats and matches throughout the tournament will be available online at ESPN3.com.
South Dakota State placed sixth at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship held March 5-6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Jackrabbits completed a 13-4 dual season and closed the regular season ranked 25th in the NWCA Division I Coaches’ Poll.
SEEDINGS AND PAIRINGS: Clay Carlson was awarded the No. 7 seed at 141 pounds to lead South Dakota State’s contingent into this week’s NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
A junior from Willmar, Minnesota, and a returning All-American, Carlson enters the championships with a 30-4 overall record after a third-place finish at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship earlier this month. He will square off against Northwestern’s Frankie Tal Shahar, 11-8 overall, in opening-round action.
Carlson was the Jackrabbits’ lone All-American last season as he placed eighth in the 141-pound weight class.
Two other returning national qualifiers, Cade DeVos and Tanner Sloan, each received the 12th seed in their respective weight classes. DeVos, a sophomore from Altoona, Iowa, brings a 29-7 overall record into the tournament and will meet Bailee O’Reilly of Minnesota, 12-6 overall, in the opening round at 174 pounds. DeVos, who placed fourth at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship, defeated O’Reilly, 3-2, in a semifinal match at the season-opening Bison Open.
DeVos was a national qualifier at 157 pounds during the 2020-21 season.
Sloan is a three-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds who has compiled a 20-5 record this season. The junior and Big 12 runner-up from Alburnett, Iowa, is slated to open his tournament run against Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State, 14-10, in what will be a rematch from a meeting earlier this season at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in which Hoffman notched a 4-3 decision.
Rounding out the tournament field for the Jackrabbits is junior heavyweight A.J. Nevills. A two-time NCAA qualifier while wrestling at Fresno State, Nevills is back at nationals after a two-year layoff. He earned the No. 22 seed with a 27-11 record and has drawn No. 11 Gary Traub of Oregon State, 20-5 overall, in first-round action.
BIG 12 RECAP: Tanner Sloan came up a point short in his quest to become South Dakota State’s first Big 12 Conference individual champion since 2018, dropping a 3-2 decision to top-seeded Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming in the 197-pound title bout March 6 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
As a team, the Jackrabbits placed sixth in the 12-team field.
A junior from Alburnett, Iowa, Sloan had his 15-match winning streak snapped as he suffered his first loss since placing fourth at the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 2.
After a scoreless first period, Buchanan reeled off the first three points of the match with an escape midway through the second period, followed by a takedown. Sloan tallied his points on escapes late in the second period and again in the third period.
Sloan also was the Big 12 runner-up in the 197-pound weight class at the 2020 championship tournament.
Also earning automatic bids to the NCAA Championships from the Jackrabbits based on their finishes at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship were Clay Carlson (141 pounds), Cade DeVos (174 pounds) and A.J. Nevills (285 pounds).
Carlson, who dropped a 5-3 decision to Andrew Alirez in the semifinals, recorded a third-place finish in the 141-pound weight class. A junior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson won two matches during the Sunday afternoon session to run his season record to 30-4 overall. In the consolation semifinals, the returning All-American tallied an 11-4 decision against Oklahoma’s Jacob Butler. Wrestling for third place, Carlson defeated North Dakota State’s Dylan Droegemueller, 7-5.
Also wrestling in a third-place match for the Jackrabbits was 174-pounder Cade DeVos. The sophomore from Altoona, Iowa, earned a 5-2 victory over fifth-seeded Hayden Hastings in the consolation semifinals, before suffering a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Anthony Mantanona of Oklahoma to finish fourth.
Heavyweight A.J. Nevills turned in a fifth-place finish in his weight class to become the fourth Jackrabbit to secure an automatic berth for the NCAA Championships. Nevills was edged, 8-6, by Missouri’s Zach Elam in the consolation semifinals before outlasting Oklahoma’s Josh Heindselman, 5-4, in match that went to an overtime tiebreaker.
Jackrabbit wrestlers combined to go 1-2 in seventh-place matches, as well. Tanner Cook was the lone winner for SDSU in those matches, picking up his 15th pin of the season with a first-period fall against Northern Colorado’s Nick Knutson.
Kenny O’Neil (157 pounds) and Gabriel Tagg (133 pounds) each placed eighth.
South Dakota State finished the two-day meet in sixth place in the team standings with 66 points. Missouri claimed the team title with 131.5 points, followed by Oklahoma with 113 and Iowa State with 110.
TEAM RANKINGS: For the first time in three seasons, the South Dakota State University wrestling team is nationally ranked. The Jackrabbits cracked the NWCA Division I Coaches Poll by checking in at No. 24 in the Jan. 11 rankings, then moved up one spot to 23rd after winning twice at the Virginia Duals on Jan. 15. SDSU remains in the poll for the sixth week in a row, remaining at No. 25 in the final rankings of the regular season after a 32-3 dual victory over North Dakota State on Feb. 20.
SDSU was last ranked in the poll in November 2018. The Jackrabbits were one of five Big 12 squads in the final regular season poll, joining No. 5 Iowa State, No. 9 Missouri, No. 13 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Oklahoma.
2021 NCAA REVIEW: South Dakota State’s Clay Carlson wrapped up competition at the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, with an eighth-place finish in the 141-pound weight class.
Carlson dropped an 11-4 decision to 10th-seeded Zachary Sherman of North Carolina in the seventh-place match at Enterprise Center. Carlson ended the three-day tournament with a 4-3 record to wrap up the season with a 20-9 overall mark.
Carlson secured All-America honors in dramatic fashion a match earlier. He led 3-1 through two periods in his matchup against Real Woods of Stanford but Woods escaped early in the final period and appeared to take an 8-3 lead after being awarded a takedown and four-point near-fall.
After a lengthy video review, however, Woods was ruled to have used an illegal hold, which negated the sequence and awarded a point to Carlson for a 4-2 lead. On the restart, though, Woods came up with a takedown to tie the match at 4-all with about a minute remaining in regulation.
Carlson then came up with a flurry of his own, starting with an escape just before Woods’ riding-time advantage reached a minute. He then recorded a takedown of Woods and followed with a four-point near-fall in the waning seconds for an 11-4 victory, ensuring a top-eight placing.
Later in the session, Carlson met Dylan Duncan of Illinois. In a closely contested matchup, Duncan came away with a 3-2 decision to send Carlson into his seventh-place matchup against Sherman.
Carlson became the first Jackrabbit wrestler to earn All-America honors since Seth Gross, David Kocer and Luke Zilverberg in 2018. Gross won the 133-pound national title that year.
Two other Jackrabbits had their All-America bids end one win shy.
At 133 pounds, Zach Price lost a 9-4 decision to eighth-seeded Chris Cannon of Northwestern. Later in the session, Tanner Sloan was ousted from the tournament with a 9-1 loss to Penn State’s Michael Beard.
Also competing for SDSU at the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships were Danny Vega (125 pounds) and Cade DeVos (157 pounds). All five Jackrabbit qualifiers won at least one match.
A LOOK AHEAD: The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships mark the end of the 2021-22 season for the Jackrabbits.