FARGO, N.D. – The North Dakota State wrestling program put a cap on the 2021-22 season as head coach Roger Kish and the wrestling coaching staff announced seven postseason program award winners at the team banquet Friday evening.
Redshirt of the Year – Michael Caliendo
11th Man Award – Michael Nelson
Rookie of the Year – DJ Parker
Most Improved Award – Dylan Droegemueller
Leadership Award – Luke Weber
Hammer Award – Owen Pentz
Most Valuable Wrestler – Jared Franek
Caliendo, a freshman out of Geneva, Illinois, scooped up redshirt of the year honors after a 14-2 season that included four tournament titles, including the prestigious Daktronics Open Championship at 165 pounds, knocking off a pair of ranked wrestlers.
Nelson, a sophomore for the Bison out of Dover, Minnesota, wrestled at two different weight classes this season and was ready for any challenges pushed his direction, and subsequently was named the 11th man award honoree. After starting the season at 184 pounds, Nelson climbed the ladder and filled in after injuries in the heavyweight division, finishing the year with a combined 6-11 record.
In his first season as a collegiate wrestler, DJ Parker made an immediate splash. He posted a 22-14 record, including a 22-2 mark against unranked wrestlers, to receive the rookie of the year award. The Moline, Illinois native, finished sixth at the Big 12 Championships and scooped up Amateur Wrestling News 2022 All-Rookie Team honors, as well as NDSU’s Male Rookie of the Year Award.
After a 7-10 campaign in 2020-21, Dylan Drogemueller came back in 2021-22 and posted a 16-10 mark and a 9-5 dual record on his way to national championship qualification, earning him most improved honors. The junior out of Champlin, Minnesota, had four ranked wins after none as a sophomore, and he also picked up two wins at the national championships in Detroit.
Fifth-year senior Luke Weber was a leader by example on and off the wrestling mat in 2021-22 and was honored with the leadership award. The Forsyth, Montana native wrapped up his career with a 22-9 record, including seven ranked victories. Weber was dominant in dual matches, posting an 11-3 mark. He finished the year with seven pins and a fourth-place finish at the Big 12 championships to earn qualification to nationals for a second-consecutive season.
Battling multiple challenges of adversity leading up to and through the season, Owen Pentz qualified for the national championships after an 18-11 season that included six ranked victories and a 10-4 record in dual matches. Battling through those challenges, Pentz received the Hammer Award from the coaching staff for his perseverance and persistence to keep battling. Pentz claimed the highest-ranked win of the season as he pinned the No. 3 wrestler in Wyoming. He finished the year with 13 pins, raked in the top 10 nationally, and first in the 197-pound weight class.
Jared Franek, out of Harwood, North Dakota, scooped up the most valuable wrestler honor, as he led the Bison this season with a runner-up finish at the Big 12 championships ad a trip to the blood round of the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season. Franek claimed the Southern Scuffle title and was named the Elite 90 award recipient at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship for holding the highest cumulative grade-point average of any competitor at the championship event. Franek posted a 25-5 record with eight ranked victories. All five losses came against wrestlers ranked in the top five nationally, including three against No. 1. Franek was 13-1 in duals and scored 13 bonus-point decisions.
North Dakota State wrestling finished the season with a 10-4 record in dual matches and a seventh-place finish at the Big 12 championships.