FARGO, N.D. – The North Dakota State wrestling team will continue its 2023-24 season on Saturday, Nov. 11, hosting the 52nd Annual Bison Open. The open will begin at 10 a.m. inside the Scheels Center.
Tickets are available at GoBison.com/tickets and in the Bison Ticket Office. Tickets will also be available on Friday night at the door. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth ages 3-17.
Two Bison are ranked in this week’s edition of the InterMat Rankings. Senior 149 pounder Kellyn March climbs to No. 11 overall, while redshirt freshman 141 pounder Gavin Drexler makes his rankings debut at No. 33 following his dual victory over Nebraska’s Blake Cushing in the opener.
Sax Named Big 12 Wrestler of the Week
Gaven Sax was named the Big 12 Co-Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday, sharing the honor alongside West Virginia’s Jett Strickenberger. Sax earned the award after he took down then-No. 20 Elise Brown Ton of Nebraska in the 174-pound match of Saturday’s dual. The junior rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a reversal to start the final period, followed by a four-point nearfall and a riding time point in an 8-3 decision. The Big 12 Wrestler of the Week award is the first for Sax and the sixth overall for North Dakota State.
Dawson Opens Bison Career with Fall
Junior transfer Devon Dawson opened up his Bison career last Saturday on top, like he did so many times during his time at Pratt Community College before coming to Fargo. Dawson battled into the lead before securing a late takedown and then a pin of Nebraska’s Harley Andrews at 6:20. The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota native had 41 career pins during his time at Pratt CC.
Four Bison, including a true freshman, made their dual debuts for North Dakota State on Saturday against Nebraska. Aidan Brenot, Devon Dawson, Brendan Howes, and Landen Johnson all suited up in a Bison singlet in the opener.
Last Year at the Bison Open
Three returning Bison are coming off of runner-up finishes in last year’s Bison Open; Gabriel Schumm (149), Landen Johnson (157), and Gaven Sax (174). Four other returning Bison took home third-place finishes last season at the Bison Open; Carlos Negrete Jr. (125), Gavin Drexler (141), Kellyn March (149) and Mason Gode (157).
The Blanc Era Begins
With the departure of Roger Kish after 12 seasons in Fargo, top assistant Obenson Blanc has taken over the reins of the Herd. Since Blanc’s arrival in Fargo, he has guided NDSU wrestlers to all three of NDSU’s Big 12 Champions, as well as two All-American honors last season.
Bison Looking to Build Off Historic Season
Last year, NDSU reached No. 15 in the NWCA Coaches Poll, the highest official ranking in the program’s Division I history. Prior to 2022-23, the Bison had never been ranked higher than 19. The Bison also reached as high as No. 12 in the InterMat rankings, the highest in any poll in the Division I era.
Of the 34 Bison set to suit up in the NDSU singlet this season, just five are upperclassmen, including one junior college transfer. The Bison have three returning seniors led by 149-pound NCAA qualifier #11 Kellyn March, and one returning junior, two-time Big 12 Championship participant Gaven Sax at 174.
The Bison have nine sophomores, with just two (Carlos Negrete Jr., 125, and Spencer Mooberry, 197) having dual experience. The Bison have 10 redshirt freshmen and 10 true freshmen, both classes ranking in the top 25 recruiting rankings, that look to fight for starting spots this season. 13 of the 20 were ranked in the last two top recruiting big boards.
March Looking to Build Off on Nationals Appearance
Senior Kellyn March is the lone returning Bison national qualifier and is set to lead a young crop of Bison, with just two other upperclassmen in the projected lineup. March had a breakout junior season, more than doubling his win total (25-9), recording five ranked wins, and also picking up four wins at the Big 12 Championships (4th place finish) and a win in the national championships (1-2). March also owns the fastest two pins in dual competition in the NDSU Division I era, recording pins in 12 and 13 seconds.
Strong Dual Schedule Awaits
The 2023-24 schedule includes 15 duals with eight match ups against traditional Power 5 programs, including Nebraska, Oklahoma, Virginia, Minnesota, Stanford, Purdue, Oregon State, and Missouri, along with traditional mid-major powers Campbell, Northern Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota State.
NCAA D1 Qualifiers
The Bison have had 64 NCAA Div. I qualifiers in 15 years of postseason eligibility, including 21 over the last four seasons. Rich in wrestling history, the Bison sent 26 to NCAA Div. I Championships from 1971 to 1991, bringing the total to 90. The Bison have 12 All-Americans at the Div. I Championships, including a best finish of 3rd by Steven Monk at 165 in 2014. In 2015, Kurtis Julson and Hayden Zillmer both placed in the top 8, while Jared Franek and Michael Caliendo earned All-American honors last season.
The Bison will jump back into dual action and hit the road for the first time, as NDSU heads to the Sooner State to face a familiar face in former head coach Roger Kish in his first season as the head coach at Oklahoma. The Big 12 dual with the Sooners is set for a 12 p.m. start on Sunday, Nov. 19.