Jacks return to Tulsa for Nationals

A program-record eight South Dakota State wrestlers will make their way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Action gets underway at 11 a.m. Thursday at BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, with the tournament featuring 330 wrestlers in 10 different weight classes concluding Saturday night. Coverage of all six sessions will be available via the ESPN family of networks.

The Jackrabbits had six wrestlers automatically qualify for the national meet based on their finishes at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship, which also was held in Tulsa, March 4-5. SDSU’s eight-member contingent was completed with the additions of 125-pounder Tanner Jordan and 184-pounder Cade King as at-large selections.

The previous school record for national qualifiers at the Division I level was seven in 2018. Of those seven wrestlers, Seth Gross won a national championship at 133 pounds, while Luke Zilverberg (eighth at 157 pounds) and David Kocer (seventh at 174 pounds) also earned All-America honors.

THE SCHEDULE:
• 11 a.m. Thursday – Pigtail, first-round matches (ESPNU)
• 6 p.m. Thursday – Wrestleback prelims, second-round matches, consolation round (ESPN)
• 11 a.m. Friday – Quarterfinals, wrestleback second and third rounds (ESPNU)
• 7 p.m. Friday – Semifinals, consolation fourth round, blood round (ESPN)
• 10 a.m. Saturday – Medal rounds (ESPNU)
• 6 p.m Saturday – Championship matches (ESPN)

JACKRABBIT QUALIFIERS:
125: #32 Tanner Jordan • Jr., St. Paris, Ohio (17-14 overall)
141: #11 Clay Carlson • Sr., Willmar, Minn. (21-8 overall)
157: #18 Cael Swensen • R-Fr., Plymouth, Minn. (21-8 overall)
165: #16 Tanner Cook • Jr., Ilion, N.Y. (16-7 overall)
174: #15 Cade DeVos • Jr., Altoona, Iowa (23-7 overall)
184: #19 Cade King • Sr., Waseca, Minn. (16-9 overall)
197: #9 Tanner Sloan • Sr., Alburnett, Iowa (23-2 overall)
285: #12 A.J. Nevills • Grad., Clovis, Calif. (20-6 overall)

SEEDINGS AND PAIRINGS: Tanner Sloan earned the No. 7 seed at 197 pounds to lead South Dakota State into the 2023 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

A senior from Alburnett, Iowa, Sloan enters the tournament with a 23-2 overall record and is slated to meet No. 26 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State in the opening round. That matchup represents a rematch from the first round a year ago, when Hoffman recorded a 6-4 overtime decision over Sloan.

Sloan, who was runner-up in his weight class at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship earlier this month in Tulsa, is a four-time NCAA qualifier with a 82-19 career record.

Also making his fourth trip to nationals is heavyweight A.J. Nevills, who is seeded 14th to set up a first-round matchup against Duke’s Jonah Niesenbaum. A senior from Clovis, California, Nevills made his first two NCAA appearances while wrestling at Fresno State and earned his second consecutive berth with the Jackrabbits after a sixth-place finish at the Big 12 Championship while compiling a 19-6 record.

Both 141-pounder Clay Carlson and 174-pounder Cade DeVos will be making their third consecutive trips to nationals.

An All-American in 2021, Carlson is seeded 11th and is set to face No. 22 Malyke Hines of Lehigh in the opening round. A senior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson holds a 21-8 record this season after finishing third at the Big 12 Championship, and carries a 94-39 career mark into the tournament.

DeVos also recorded a third-place finish at the 2023 Big 12 Championship and brings a 23-7 record into the NCAA Championships as the No. 13 seed. A junior from Altoona, Iowa, DeVos is slated to face No. 20 Alex Cramer of Central Michigan in his first match.

Earning his second NCAA berth at 165 pounds is junior Tanner Cook, who is seeded 22nd with a 16-7 record. The Ilion, New York native, who placed eighth at the Big 12 Championship, will face returning All-American Cameron Amine of Michigan in the opening round. Cook’s first qualified for the NCAAs in 2020, but that tournament was canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three Jackrabbits will be making their first trip to nationals, including redshirt freshman 157-pounder Cael Swensen, who is seeded 20th with a 21-8 mark after placing fifth at the conference level. The Plymouth, Minnesota native will face No. 13 Trevor Chumbley in a rematch of their fifth-place bout at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this past December in which Chumbley won a 6-2 decision.

Senior Cade King and junior Tanner Jordan are seeded 24th and 32nd, respectively, at 184 and 125 pounds. A native of Waseca, Minnesota, King brings a 16-9 record into his matchup against Minnesota’s Isaiah Salazar, who is seeded ninth.

Jordan, from St. Paris, Ohio, will wrestle No. 33 Tucker Owens of Air Force in a pigtail match for the right to face top-seeded and defending national champion Spencer Lee of Iowa. Jordan has compiled a 17-14 record so far this season, which included a pin of Owens in dual action in late January.

A full listing of initial matches for Jackrabbit wrestlers is as follows:
125: #32 Tanner Jordan vs. #33 Tucker Owens (Air Force)
141: #11 Clay Carlson vs. #22 Malyke Hines (Lehigh)
157: #20 Cael Swensen vs. #11 Tevor Chumbley (Northwestern)
165: #22 Tanner Cook vs. #11 Cameron Amine (Michigan)
174: #13 Cade DeVos vs. #20 Alex Cramer (Central Michigan)
184: #24 Cade King vs. #9 Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota)
197: #7 Tanner Sloan vs. #26 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State)
285: #14 A.J. Nevills vs. #19 Jonah Niesenbaum (Duke)

BIG 12 RECAP: After 10 minutes of action, Tanner Sloan’s mission to become South Dakota State’s first Big 12 Conference individual wrestling champion in five years came up one point short in a 2-1, tiebreaker loss to Missouri’s Rocky Elam in the 197-pound title bout on March 5.

A senior from Alburnett, Iowa, Sloan suffered his second loss of the season, falling to 23-2 overall and had his 20-match winning streak snapped. Sloan scored the first point of the methodical match on an escape with exactly a minute remaining in period No. 2.

Elam chose a neutral start to the third period, but neither wrestler was able to deliver a takedown in the third period, sending the match to overtime. After another two minutes of little action, the match was decided in tiebreakers when Elam rode out Sloan for the first 30-second interval and then managed an escape in the second half without an answer from Sloan to secure the final point.

The victory by Elam secured Missouri’s second consecutive team title as the Tigers finished with 148 points on the strength of placing six wrestlers in the finals. Iowa State with 134 points and Iowa State with 129 points rounded out the top three.

SDSU, which had ended each of the previous three sessions in fifth place, slipped to sixth in the final session with 86.5 points.

Clay Carlson and Cade DeVos each finished with third-place showings in their respective weight classes. A senior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson received a forfeit prior to his scheduled consolation semifinal against Oklahoma’s Mosha Schwartz, then outlasted Iowa State’s Casey Swiderski in the third-place match. In what was a rematch from the opening round, Carlson and Swiderski ended regulation and the first overtime session tied at 2-all. Both wrestlers recorded escapes in the set of 30-second tiebreakers, but Carlson was awarded the decisive point on the merits of a one-second advantage in riding time.

DeVos, a junior from Altoona, Iowa, avenged a loss during the regular season to Oklahoma’s Tate Picklo with a convincing 6-1 decision in the consolation semifinals. DeVos was slated to meet Utah Valley’s Demetrius Romero in the third-place matchup, but Romero withdrew from the tourney to put DeVos on the podium in the third spot.

Redshirt freshman Cael Swensen added a fifth-place finish for the Jackrabbits at 157 pounds. He dropped a 5-4 decision to Jason Kraisser of Iowa State to open the second day of competition, then came back with a 5-2 decision over Jared Hill, defeating the Oklahoma wrestler for the second time in the tournament.

Heavyweight A.J. Nevills also lost in the consolation semifinals, dropping a 2-0 decision to Northern Iowa’s Tyrell Gordon. Nevills was injured in the closing seconds of that match and withdrew from the tournament to close out his championship run with a sixth-place finish.

Other Jackrabbits to post top-eight finishes were Cade King, seventh at 184 pounds, and Tanner Cook, eighth in the 165-pound class. King did not wrestle a contested match during the Sunday afternoon session, while Cook dropped an 8-3 decision to Oklahoma’s Gerrit Nijenhuis.

RABBITS RANKED: The South Dakota State wrestling team closed the 2022-23 regular season with its highest ranking under head coach Damion Hahn, checking in at No. 14 following the Jackrabbits’ victory over North Dakota State on Feb. 19. It marked the highest ranking for the Jackrabbits since ascending to No. 12 late in the 2017-18 season.

The Jackrabbits began the season ranked in the top 25 after being included in a pair of national polls and maintained a national ranking for most of the 2022-23 campaign.

SDSU checked in at No. 22 in the preseason poll conducted by InterMat and were ranked 25th in the initial National Wrestling Coaches Association survey. SDSU was one of five Big 12 Conference programs ranked in the NWCA preseason top 25, joining No. 4 Missouri, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 14 Iowa State and No. 20 UNI.

Following their strong showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in early December, the Jackrabbits climbed seven spots to No. 18. The Jackrabbits moved up two more spots in January to No. 16 and continued their steady climb to No. 14 on the strength of a 12-4 dual season that included a 10-match winning streak.

COOK, NEVILLS AMONG PIN LEADERS: Two South Dakota State wrestlers have been ranked in the top 10 among Division I wrestlers for wins by fall this season.

Jackrabbit 165-pounder Tanner Cook entered the Big 12 Wrestling Championship ranked in a tie for eighth with nine wins by fall against D-I competition and added two more in his first postseason tournament of the season. A junior from Ilion, New York, Cook has needed only 23 minutes and 31 seconds of mat time to post his 11 falls, with six of those pins occurring in less than a minute.

Cook was honored Dec. 20 as Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week after pinning 13th-ranked Bubba Wilson of Nebraska in only 29 seconds in dual action Dec. 18. He brings a 14-4 season record and a 55-19 career mark into competition this weekend.

At heavyweight, SDSU’s A.J. Nevills recently dropped out of the top 10 despite eight wins by fall. Nevills has recorded his eight pins against D-I opponents in 25 minutes and 38 seconds, last adding to his total with a Jan. 22 pin against Wyoming’s Mason Ding.

A LOOK AHEAD: The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships mark the end of the 2022-23 season for the Jackrabbit wrestling team.

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