BURNSVILLE, MINN. – The Southwest Minnesota State wrestling team was picked to finish eighth in the annual Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches’ poll released on Tuesday.
St. Cloud State, the 11-time defending NSIC Champions, was the unanimous choice to win the league. The Huskies had 81 points and all nine first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team) to rank eight points ahead of Augustana, which was second with 73 points and the other first-place vote. Northern State was third with 56 points while the University of Mary was fourth with 53 points. Wisconsin-Parkside (associate member) was fifth with 50 points.
Upper Iowa was selected sixth with 49 points, followed by Minnesota State in seventh with 36 points, SMSU in eighth with 24 points, Minot State in ninth with 19 points, and MSU Moorhead with nine points in 10th place.
SMSU will look to make a leap in 2022-23 under second-year head coach Chayse Jackson. The team returns seven individuals who competed in last season’s Super Region V tournament and has a roster featuring a total of 25 athletes, including two seniors, seven juniors, 10 sophomores, three redshirt freshmen, and three true freshmen.
“This year’s team returns eight of our ten starters back into the line-up,” Jackson said. “Our experience, coupled with the leadership from the captains has set this team apart from any other I have coached. They are self-motivated, driven, and focused on their goals. My job is to provide a good training environment and get out of the way. I am fired up to see these guys hit the mats together and see all their hard work begin to pay off.”
Headlining the list of returners is junior 184-pounder Caden Steffen, named as an NSIC ‘Wrestler to Watch.’ He was ranked No. 2 in the NWCA Division II preseason rankings in October. Steffen ended up placing sixth at the NCAA Championships on his way to becoming an NCAA All-American for the second straight season. Steffen finished the season 22-4, including a 3-0 Super Regional record and 3-3 record in the NCAA Championships.
“Caden is a leader both on and off the mat. His work ethic and driver are pervasive, and he consistently motivates his teammates to be better in all aspects of their life,” Jackson said. “He continually focuses on improving, does the little things right, and gives 100 percent in everything he does. This is visible not only in his training, but also in his wrestling. He has a hard-nosed style indicative of his mindset. Caden shows up, beats on guys, and goes the whole seven minutes without stop. His constant attacks and action make him one of the best wrestlers to watch.”
Also returning is Jacob Dykes, a junior heavyweight who finished last season 11-9 and 6-2 in NSIC matches. Dykes finished 1-3 in the super regionals, falling in the fifth-place match. Sophomore Carter Marx returns after an 11-10 record in the 2021-22 season. Also returning from the Super Regional lineup is junior Hunter Pfantz at 133, junior Justin Sampson at 141, sophomore Lucas Hodges at 157, and junior Dillon McEachran at 197.
SMSU opens the 2022-23 season on Saturday, Nov. 5, with several individuals competing at the RCTC Yellowjacket Open. Most of the team will SMSU will open its NSIC dual season on Friday, Dec. 9, at home against Northern State at 7 p.m.
2022-23 NSIC Wrestling Preseason Coaches’ Poll
St. Cloud State (9) 81
Augustana (1) 73
Northern State 56
Upper Iowa 49
Minnesota State 36
SW Minnesota State 24
Minot State 19
MSU Moorhead 9