Jacks turn focus to postseason

After completing a successful dual season, the South Dakota State wrestling team will turn the page to postseason competition as it prepares for the Big 12 Wrestling Championship this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The two-day tournament begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. A second session Saturday begins at 5 p.m., with consolation and placing matches resuming at noon Sunday. The championship matches begin at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Video coverage of the first three sessions will be available through the Big 12 Now on ESPN+ streaming platform, with Sunday’s championship matches also televised on ESPN2.

The Big 12 Wrestling Championship serves as the qualifying tournament for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which will be held March 17-19 in Detroit, Michigan.

South Dakota State completed a 13-4 dual season and closed the regular season ranked 25th in the NWCA Division I Coaches’ Poll.

SEEDINGS AND PAIRINGS: Three South Dakota State wrestlers are seeded second to lead a group of seven Jackrabbits in the top eight of their respective weight classes as preparations continue for this weekend’s Big 12 Wrestling Championship.

Returning All-American Clay Carlson, a junior from Willmar, Minnesota, is seeded second for the Jackrabbits in the 141-pound class after compiling a 27-3 overall record so far this season. Iowa State’s Ian Parker received the top seed in the weight class, which has seven automatic qualifying spots allocated for the national tournament.

Also seeded second from SDSU are 174-pounder Cade DeVos and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan. A sophomore from Altoona, Iowa, DeVos has posted a 26-5 record this season at 174 pounds after earning a trip to nationals at 157 pounds during the 2020-21 campaign. Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott is the No. 1 in the 174-pound division.

Sloan, a two-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds, has won 12 matches in a row and enters the postseason with a 17-4 overall record. The junior from Alburnett, Iowa, is seeded behind Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan.

Seeded third at 133 pounds is South Dakota State newcomer Gabriel Tagg. Since joining the lineup in January, Tagg has put together a 12-3 record. Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix and Northern Iowa’s Kyle Biscoglia are the top two seeds in the weight class.

Entering the tournament with the No. 4 seed at heavyweight is junior A.J. Nevills. A native of Clovis, California, Nevills reached the Big 12 finals twice while wrestling for Fresno State and holds a 24-9 overall record in his first season at South Dakota State. Top billing at heavyweight went to Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson.

Rounding out the seedings for the Jackrabbits are Cade King, fifth at 184 pounds, and Tanner Cook, who is sixth in a competitive 165-pound bracket. King, a junior from Waseca, Minnesota, has posted a 14-7 record this season, while Cook, a sophomore from Ilion, New York, has compiled an 18-9 mark. Cook was an NCAA qualifier during the 2019-20 season after placing third at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship.

Keegan O’Toole of Missouri holds the No. 1 seed at 165 pounds, with Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen taking the same honors in the 184-pound division.

Unseeded wrestlers for the Jackrabbits include Tanner Jordan (125 pounds), Daniel Kimball (149 pounds) and Kenny O’Neil (157 pounds).

Pairings for this weekend’s Big 12 Wrestling Championship were revealed by the league office Wednesday morning, with nine of SDSU’s 10 wrestlers slated to see action in the opening round.

The lone Jackrabbit to receive a first-round bye was second-seeded 141-pounder Clay Carlson. He will face the winner between No. 7 Darren Green (Wyoming) and Caleb Rea (West Virginia).

SDSU’s first-round matchups include:
125: Tanner Jordan vs. No. 2 Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley)
133: No. 3 Gabriel Tagg vs. Connor Brown (Missouri)
149: Daniel Kimball vs. No. 1 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)
157: Kenny O’Neil vs. No. 7 Derek Holschlag (Northern Iowa)
165: No. 6 Tanner Cook vs. Danny Snediker (Utah Valley)
174: No. 2 Cade DeVos vs. Kekana Fouret (Utah Valley)
184: No. 5 Cade King vs. Anthony Carman (West Virginia)
197: No. 2 Tanner Sloan vs. Kayne Hutchison (Air Force)
285: No. 4 A.J. Nevills vs. Chase Trussell (Utah Valley)

PANEL RANKINGS: Six South Dakota State University wrestlers were included the final NCAA coaches’ panel rankings of the regular season, which were announced Feb. 24.

Leading the Jackrabbit contingent in the panel rankings is returning All-American Clay Carlson, who is ranked sixth at 141 pounds. A junior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson has compiled a 27-3 record entering postseason competition and also holds the second-best ratings percentage index (RPI) in the weight class.

Sophomore 174-pounder Cade DeVos also holds a top-10 RPI as he stands ninth in the index to go along with an 11th-place showing in the panel rankings. A native of Altoona, Iowa, DeVos has posted a 26-5 record in his first season at 174 pounds after qualifying for nationals as a 157-pounder last season.

Next for the Jackrabbits in the panel rankings is two-time NCAA qualifier Tanner Sloan, who is 13th in the latest survey at 197 pounds. A junior from Alburnett, Iowa, Sloan brings a 17-4 record into postseason competition and is in the midst of a 12-match winning streak. He also stands 14th in RPI at his weight class.

Junior heavyweight A.J. Nevills checks in at No. 20 in both the panel rankings and RPI this week. A transfer from Fresno State and a native of Clovis, California, Nevills has put together a 24-9 record in his first season as a Jackrabbit.

Fellow newcomer Gabriel Tagg cracked the panel rankings for the first time at No. 28, as well as 27th in RPI. A midseason transfer from Lodi, Ohio, by way of North Carolina, Tagg has notched a 12-3 record during his sophomore season.

Completing the Jackrabbits’ list of ranked wrestlers is Tanner Cook, who is ranked 29th at 165 pounds after posting an 18-9 record.

While Cook does not appear in the top 33 of his weight class for RPI, SDSU’s Cade King is 19th for RPI at 184 pounds despite not being ranked. King has turned in a 14-7 record so far this season.

The Jackrabbits are also well-represented in a number of other individual rankings entering postseason competition.

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 seasons after a 32-3 victory over North Dakota State on Feb. 20.

SDSU was last ranked in the poll in November 2018. The Jackrabbits are one of five Big 12 squads in this week’s poll, joining No. 5 Iowa State, No. 9 Missouri, No. 13 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Oklahoma.

LAST TIME OUT: South Dakota State saved perhaps its best performance of the season for last, closing the dual campaign Feb. 20 with an emphatic 32-3 victory over Big 12 Conference rival North Dakota State before a crowd of 1,518 at Frost Arena.

In winning back the Border Bell, the 25th-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 13-4 overall and 5-2 against Big 12 foes. NDSU dropped to 10-4 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12.

The Jackrabbits raced out to an early 10-0 lead as Tanner Jordan won by major decision at 125 pounds, while Gabriel Tagg and Clay Carlson each earned victories by decision over ranked opponents. Tagg, ranked 31st by Intermat, downed No. 22 Kellyn March, 10-3, at 133 pounds, while the fifth-ranked Carlson scored an 8-3 decision against No. 28 Dylan Droegemueller.

SDSU pushed the lead to 13-0 thanks to a comeback victory by Daniel Kimball in the 149-pound matchup. Kimball trailed Gaven Sax, 6-4, with 14 seconds remaining and Sax having already secured a point for riding time. On a restart, Kimball quickly scored a takedown, then put Sax to his back for a decisive two-point near-fall to pull out an 8-7 decision.

Three matches in the second half of the dual went down to the wire or to overtime, with the Jackrabbits coming out victorious in all three.

The 165-pound matchup between No. 13 Luke Weber of NDSU and the Jackrabbits’ Tanner Cook was the first to go to overtime, tied at 2-all. As he did throughout the match, Cook fended off a Weber takedown attempt on the edge of the mat and turned it into a takedown of his own and added a four-point near-fall to post an 8-2 victory.

Cade King recorded a takedown in the final 30 seconds of his 184-pound match against D.J. Parker to notch a 5-4 victory and A.J. Nevills outlasted Brandon Metz in overtime in a battle between ranked heavyweights in the final bout of the dual. Tied at 2-all through regulation and the first overtime period, Nevills escaped early in first half of a tiebreaker, then rode out Metz for the full 30 seconds in last half to earn a 3-2 decision.

Adding bonus-point victories for the Jackrabbits were Cade DeVos and Tanner Sloan. The 10th-ranked DeVos dominated his 174-pound match against No. 22 Austin Brenner, winning 9-0 and racking up more than five minutes in riding time.

Sloan, ranked seventh at 197 pounds, ran his winning streak to 12 matches with a pin of No. 21 Owen Pentz early in the third period.

Jared Franek, ranked sixth at 157 pounds, was the lone winner for the Bison on the afternoon as he scored a 10-3 decision over Kenny O’Neil.

A LOOK AHEAD: The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are set for March 17-19 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. At-large selections to the 330-wrestler field will be announced March 8, with pairings and seedings revealed on March 9.

Check out Jackrabbit Wrestling at gojacks.com and on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram.

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