Franek Claims Big 12 Championship at 157, Bison Fifth

TULSA, Okla. – Senior 157-pounder Jared Franek became North Dakota State wrestling’s third Big 12 Conference champion, as he defeated Oklahoma State’s Kaden Gfeller 5-3 in the Big 12 Wrestling Championship finals Sunday night at the BOK Center.

Franek’s performance led the way for the Bison, who jumped one spot to finish fifth overall in the team standings. Franek joins Cam Sykora (133 in 2020) and Luke Weber (165 in 2021) as NDSU’s Big 12 champions.

The Harwood, N.D. native made his third-straight trip to the championship final after victories over No. 31 Vinny Zerban (Northern Colorado) and No. 20 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State) on Saturday.

Going up against No. 9 Gfeller, Franek took the lead early and never trailed. The West Fargo High School product landed his first shot and converted it to a takedown in the opening minute. After Gfeller escaped, Franek held on to a 2-1 lead for the remainder of the period.

Franek elected to start the second period down and within 10 seconds, escaped for a 3-1 lead. Gfeller picked up a quick escape to start the third period, cutting Franek’s lead to 3-2. However, Franek responded with a takedown midway through the third period to go up 5-2 and secured the victory after Gfeller’s escape several seconds later.

In Franek’s four trips to the Big 12 Championships, he has recorded a third as a freshman and runner-up finishes as a sophomore and junior, before lifting the title this year. Franek improved to 22-1 on the season and his win Sunday was his 22nd straight victory.

During the afternoon session, redshirt freshman Michal Caliendo wrapped up his first trip to the Big 12 Championships with a third-place finish at 165 pounds. After falling in the semis on Saturday, Caliendo rebounded with a 7-2 victory over No. 14 Austin Yant of Northern Iowa to advance to the third-place match.

Caliendo then ended his Big 12 Championships in style, recording a second period pin over Wyoming’s Coley Moody. In was his second fall of the tournament and his third bonus-point victory. Caliendo becomes the sixth Bison to finish third overall and the 19th top-three finish for NDSU since joining the Big 12.

Four other Bison competed in the placing rounds on Sunday, with all four going 1-1 on the day. Kellyn March (149) and Owen Pentz (197) each recorded victories in their opening matches to reach the third-place matches. March won a thrilling 11-10 decision over No. 14 Colin Realbuto of Northern Iowa in his consolation semi. Pentz too had a thrilling win, recording a takedown in the final seconds to defeat No. 7 Yonger Bastida of Iowa State with a 4-2 decision.

Both wrestlers would fall in the third-place match. March lost to No. 20 Mitch Moore of Oklahoma 5-0, while Pentz fell for the second time in the tournament to No. 18 Luke Surber of Oklahoma State, his only losses.

McGwire Midkiff (133) and DJ Parker (184) dropped their first matches of the day, falling into the fifth-place match. Midkiff battled but ultimately fell to No. 17 Kyle Biscoglia of Northern Iowa by a 4-1 decision. Parker led in his battle but couldn’t fight off a comeback from No. 11 Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State, falling 7-4.

Both wrestlers would pick up victories in the fifth-place match to close out their weekends. Midkiff scored a medical forfeit win over No. 28 Connor Brown of Missouri, before Parker came from behind to defeat Air Force’s Noah Blake with a 5-3 decision.

In the team competition, the Bison finished in fifth in the 13-team field, scoring 89.0 points. The entered the day in sixth and remained in sixth entering the final round, with Franek’s win earning enough points to move up one spot. Missouri (148) claimed the team title with Oklahoma State (134), Iowa State (131) and Oklahoma (97.5) finishing ahead of the Bison.

Big 12 Championships Results

Franek, Caliendo, March, Pentz and Midkiff earned automatic qualifying bids to the NCAA National Championships in two weeks. Parker finished one position outside of the AQ spots and will wait for a possible at-large bid, along with the rest of the Bison. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Selection Show will air Wednesday, March 8th at 7 p.m. CT on NCAA.com.

The NCAA Division I Wrestling National Championships will take place on March 16-18, back in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the BOK Center.

Big 12 Champion
157 | Jared Franek | 3-0 | 19.0 pts
W over #31 Vinny Zerban (Northern Colorado); Dec 8-3
W over #20 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State); Dec 3-2
W over #9 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State); Dec 5-3

3rd Place
165 | Michael Caliendo | 4-1 | 17.5 pts
W over Cameron Haddock (Utah Valley); Fall 4:05
W over #23 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State); MD 17-7
L to #2 Keegan O`Toole (Missouri); Dec 8-3
W over #14 Austin Yant (Northern Iowa); Dec 7-2
W over Cole Moody (Wyoming); Fall 3:31

4th Place
149 | Kellyn March | 4-2 | 17.5 pts
W over Dylan Martinez (Air Force); Fall 1:41
L to #19 Victor Voinovich (Oklahoma State); Dec 3-2
W over Chaz Hallmark (California Baptist); Fall 2:52
W over Isaiah Delgado (Utah Valley); Fall 7:24
W over #14 Colin Realbuto (Northern Iowa); Dec 11-10
L to #20 Mitch Moore (Oklahoma); Dec 5-0

197 | Owen Pentz | 3-2 | 14.5 pts
L to #18 Luke Surber (Oklahoma State); Dec 12-5
W over Tyce Raddon (Wyoming); Fall 4:18
W over Calvin Sund (Air Force); Fall 1:23
W over #7 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State); Dec 4-2
L to #18 Luke Surber (Oklahoma State); Dec 8-2

5th Place
133 | McGwire Midkiff | 3-2 | 10.5 pts
L to Derrick Cardinal (South Dakota State); Dec 4-2
W over Jace Koelzer (Northern Colorado); Dec 6-0
W over #26 Cody Phippen (Air Force); Dec 3-2
L to #17 Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa); Dec 4-1
W over #28 Connor Brown (Missouri); For.

184 | DJ Parker | 3-2 | 9.5 pts
L to #23 Colton Hawks (Missouri); Dec 3-2
W over Mahonri Rushton (Utah Valley); TF 16-1 7:00
W over #19 Cade King (South Dakota State); Dec 3-0
L to #11 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State); Dec 7-4
W over Noah Blake (Air Force); Dec 5-3

Non-Placers
125 | Carlos Negrete Jr. | 1-2 | 0.5 pts
L to #13 Noah Surtin (Missouri); Fall 3:27
W over Devin Garcia (California Baptist); Dec 6-3
L to Kase Mauger (Utah Valley); TF 17-0 4:56

141 | Dylan Droegemueller | 0-2
L to Job Greenwood (Wyoming); Dec 4-2
L to Ty Smith (Utah Valley); MD 11-0

174 | Gaven Sax | 0-2
L to #26 Lance Runyon (Northern Iowa); Dec 7-3
L to Scott Joll (West Virginia); Dec 7-4

285 | Juan Mora | 0-2
L to #14 AJ Nevills (South Dakota State); SV 6-4
L to Chase Trussell (Utah Valley); Dec 3-2

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