NDSU’s Franek Into Big 12 Championship Final

TULSA, Okla. – Jared Franek advanced to his third-straight Big 12 Championship Final on Saturday to lead the way for North Dakota State at the 2023 Big 12 Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center.

The Bison advanced six wrestlers out of day one into the placing rounds on Sunday, with Franek reaching the final and five Bison set for consolation semifinal rounds beginning at noon. While the Bison have six wrestlers guaranteed placing finishes, five have already earned automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships in two weeks, with Michael Caliendo, Kellyn March, McGwire Midkiff and Owen Pentz earning AQs alongside Franek.

Franek, the top seed at 157 pounds, took down No. 31 Vinny Zerban (Northern Colorado) with an 8-3 decision in his opening match and then punched his ticket into the final with a victory over No. 20 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State), by way of a 3-2 decision in the semifinals. Franek’s two wins scored the Bison 15 team points on the day.

Caliendo also reached the semifinals on Saturday evening, needing two wins to reach the match. Caliendo, the No. 3 seed, started out with a pin of Cameron Haddock (Utah Valley) at 4:05 before a dominating major decision victory over No. 23 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State), winning 17-7 to advance to the semis. Caliendo would fall to No. 2 Keegan O`Toole (Missouri) by an 8-3 decision in the semis. He will face No. 14 Austin Yant (Northern Iowa) in the consolation semis, with a win advancing him to the third-place match and a loss in the consolation semis going to the fifth-place match. Caliendo scored 11 team points with his two wins.

One of the strongest days on the mat came from March at 149 pounds, as he secured falls in all three of his victories to score 14 team points for the Bison. March started out with a fall victory over Dylan Martinez (Air Force) at 1:41 before falling by a narrow 3-2 decision to No. 19 Victor Voinovich (Oklahoma State). In the consolation rounds, March responded with a pin at 2:52 to defeat Chaz Hallmark (California Baptist) and then secured a pin in sudden victory over Isaiah Delgado (Utah Valley) after the match was tied 11-11 following regulation. March will face No. 14 Colin Realbuto (Northern Iowa) in the consolation semis.

Pentz grabbed a pair of pins in the evening session as he advanced to the consolation semis of the 197-pound bracket after scoring 11 points for NDSU on the day. Pentz lost to No. 18 Luke Surber (Oklahoma State) by a 12-5 decision in his opening match, but responded with a pin over Tyce Raddon (Wyoming) at 4:18. Pentz then picked up a quick fall at 1:23 to defeat Calvin Sund (Air Force). His pin over Raddon and Sund were Pentz’s second over each wrestler this season, as he pinned both in duals earlier in the year. Pentz will face No. 7 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) in the consolation semis.

The final Bison to earn an AQ bid to the NCAA Championships was Midkiff in the 133-pound bracket, as he also overcame a first-round defeat. Following a 4-2 decision loss to Derrick Cardinal (South Dakota State) to start the day, Midkiff responded with a shutout of Jace Koelzer (Northern Colorado), winning 6-0. Midkiff then advanced with an upset victory over No. 26 Cody Phippen (Air Force), securing a late takedown to win 3-2. Midkiff will face No. 17 Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa) in his next match.

DJ Parker also overcame an early loss on Saturday to reach the consolation semis at 184 pounds. Parker fell to No. 23 Colton Hawks (Missouri) in a narrow 3-2 decision, but responded with a statement victory as he dominated Mahonri Rushton (Utah Valley) with a tech fall victory of 16-1 after riding time was awarded at the final whistle. Parker then advanced with a shutout victory over No. 19 Cade King, winning 3-0. Parker scored 8.5 points for the Bison and will face No. 11 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State) in his next matchup, with the winner reaching the third-place match and securing an automatic bid to nationals.

Carlos Negrete Jr. (125) picked up a half-point for the Bison as he was able to score a victory in his first consolation match. After falling to No. 13 Noah Surtin (Missouri) to start the day, Negrete came from behind to win 6-3 over Devin Garcia (California Baptist) in the first consolation round. However, he would fall to Kase Mauger (Utah Valley) and be eliminated.

Dylan Droegemueller (141), Gaven Sax (174) and Juan Mora (285) all failed to pick up victories on the day, going 0-2 to be eliminated.

As a team, the Bison sit in sixth overall in the 13-team field with 67.5 points. Missouri leads with 135 points, while Iowa State (112) and Oklahoma State (102.5) round out the top three. North Dakota State’s six pins in a total time of 20:43 leads the way for the tournament field.

The final day of the Big 12 Championships is set to begin at noon on Sunday, with the consolation semifinals, third, fifth and seventh-place matches. The championship matches are slated to begin at 8 p.m. Sunday evening. The early session will be streamed on Big 12 Now/ESPN + and the championship session will be streamed live on ESPN U.

Championship Final

157 | Jared Franek | 2-0 | 15.0 pts
W over #31 Vinny Zerban (Northern Colorado); Dec 8-3
W over #20 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State); Dec 3-2
#9 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)

Consolation Semifinals

133 | McGwire Midkiff | 2-1 | 7.5 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
#17 Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa)

149 | Kellyn March | 3-1 | 14.0 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
#14 Colin Realbuto (Northern Iowa)

165 | Michael Caliendo | 2-1 | 11.0 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
#14 Austin Yant (Northern Iowa)

184 | DJ Parker | 2-1 | 8.5 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
#11 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State)

197 | Owen Pentz | 2-1 | 11.0 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
#7 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State)


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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