The South Dakota State University wrestling team opens the 2023-24 season Saturday with a group of 20 wrestlers expected to compete in the Bison Open.
Action in the day-long individual tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Scheels Center on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo, North Dakota. Live results will be available through TrackWrestling.com.
THE LINEUP: The following Jackrabbit wrestlers are entered in the Bison Open:
125: Tanner Jordan, Sr., St. Paris, Ohio (18-16 record during 2022-23 season);
125: Brandon Meredith, Sr., Limerick, Pennsylvania (did not compete in 2022-23);
133: Derrick Cardinal, So., Forest Lake, Minnesota (11-15);
141: Caleb Gross, Sr., Pound, Wisconsin (8-7);
141: Parker Janssen, Fr., St. Michael, Minnesota (first season at SDSU);
149: Daniel Kimball, Sr., Buckingham, Iowa (did not compete in 2022-23);
157: Ryan Dolezal, R-Fr., Marshfield, Wisconsin (6-9);
157: Moses Espinoza-Owens, Fr., Woods Cross, Utah (first season at SDSU);
165: Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Fr., Woods Cross, Utah (first season at SDSU);
165: Brock Fettig, R-Fr., Bismarck, North Dakota (11-13);
174: Riggin Boger, Fr., Francis, Utah (first season at SDSU);
184: Jaxon Bowes, R-Fr., Brookings, South Dakota (3-10);
197: Thomas Dineen, Fr., Hancock, Minnesota (first season at SDSU);
197: Cody Donnelly, So., Philip, South Dakota (10-4);
197: Jared Thiry, Fr., Waterloo, Iowa (first season at SDSU);
285: Regan Bollweg, So., Harrold, South Dakota (did not compete last season);
285: Bowen McConville, Sr., Renton, Washington (5-3);
285: Luke Rasmussen, R-Fr., Brookings, South Dakota (10-6);
285: Spencer Trenary, Sr., Rolfe, Iowa (3-4)
285: Kail Wynia, R-Fr., Mantorville, Minnesota (7-7).
First-year wrestlers will compete as attached wrestlers during the Bison Open, with the remainder of the lineup competing unattached. New NCAA rules dictate that freshmen are only allowed to compete in the first semester if they are designated as attached wrestlers and are allotted five dates of competition to maintain full eligibility.
SEASON PREVIEW: With six NCAA qualifiers returning to the lineup, expectations are at an all-time high for the South Dakota State wrestling program as the Jackrabbits prepare for the 2023-24 season.
Leading the way are returning All-Americans Clay Carlson at 141 pounds and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan. Carlson, a sixth-year senior from Willmar, Minnesota, claimed the second All-America of his career this past March with a fifth-place finish in the 141-pound weight class to complete the 2022-23 season with a 27-10 record. Carlson reach the 100-win milestone for his career at the NCAA Championships and enters this season tied for 13th on the SDSU all-time victories chart with a 101-41 career record.
Sloan advanced all the way to the national championship match at 197 pounds, where he dropped a 5-3 decision to Pittsburgh’s Nino Bonaccorsi. A four-time NCAA qualifier from Alburnett, Iowa, Sloan enters his final season in a Jackrabbit singlet with an 86-20 career record. He compiled a 27-3 overall record last season, including posting a perfect 14-0 mark in duals.
Other returning multi-time national qualifiers are 165-pounder Tanner Cook and 174-pounder Cade DeVos. Cook, a senior from Ilion, New York, Cook has consistently ranked among the NCAA pin leaders during his Jackrabbit career, including winning 12 matches by fall last season en route to a 17-9 overall record.
DeVos, a senior from Altoona, Iowa, was one win away from All-America honors at last season’s national championship, finishing the year with a 26-9 overall record. He is a three-time NCAA qualifier and holds a 70-29 career mark.
Rounding out the list of returning qualifiers are 125-pounder Tanner Jordan and Cael Swensen at 157 pounds. Jordan posted an 18-16 record last season, while Swensen also advanced to the Blood Round at nationals during a freshman campaign in which he compiled a 24-10 record.
Jordan, however, will be challenged for the starting spot at 125 pounds by Brandon Meredith. A transfer from Penn State, Meredith sat out last season due to injury.
Other starting spots up for grabs include 149 pounds and heavyweight. Three wrestlers with starting experience are expected to contend for the starting role at 149 pounds as incumbent Alek Martin, along with 2021-22 starter Daniel Kimball and converted 133-pounder Gabriel Tagg will attempt to make the cut. Martin tallied a 17-14 record as a redshirt freshman, while Kimball sat out last season due to injury after notching a 19-20 record the previous season.
Tagg also was held out of competition last season, after turning in a 13-6 record at 133 pounds the second half of the 2021-22 season.
Heavyweight will also be a wide-open competition between a handful of wrestlers who look to replace two-time NCAA qualifier A.J. Nevills. Veteran Bowen McConville has the most returning experience, followed by Spencer Trenary. Redshirt freshmen Luke Rasmussen and Kail Wynia also will vie for the position, with converted football player Regan Bollweg also in the mix.
Filling out the remainder of the projected starting lineup are sophomore Derrick Cardinal at 133 pounds and redshirt freshman Bennett Berge in the 184-pound slot. Cardinal finished with an 11-15 record in his first season in the starting lineup last season, while Berge is tabbed to take over for NCAA qualifier Cade King. Berge is a two-time medalist at the UWW U20 World Championships in freestyle and put together an 11-5 record during limited action last season as a true freshman.
RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State begins the 2023-24 season with its highest preseason ranking ever in the NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 12 in the survey, which was announced Oct. 31.
The Jackrabbits also ed their highest-ever ranking in the national poll. SDSU was previously ranked 12th for five weeks during the 2017-18 season.
SDSU, coached by Damion Hahn, was one of six Big 12 Conference teams to be ranked in the top 25. Missouri was ranked fourth, followed by Iowa State in 10th and Oklahoma State at No. 11. Also ranked were Northern Iowa at No. 17 and Oklahoma, which is tied for 20th. Defending national champion Penn State was a unanimous pick for the top spot in the poll.
Beside Missouri (Feb. 18), Oklahoma State (Feb. 10) and Oklahoma (Feb. 9), the Jackrabbits are scheduled to face at least three other teams in the preseason poll — all from the Big Ten Conference — in dual action this season. SDSU is slated to travel to 14th-ranked Minnesota on Nov. 26, followed by a Dec. 16 trip to ninth-ranked Nebraska. A Jan. 4 date against Michigan at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls further highlights the schedule.
Individually, seven Jackrabbit wrestlers appear in this week’s rankings conducted by FloWrestling and InterMat:
125: Tanner Jordan (29th by InterMat/32nd by FloWrestling);
141: Clay Carlson (6th by FloWrestling/8th by InterMat);
157: Cael Swensen (13th by InterMat/14th by FloWrestling);
165: Tanner Cook (15th by FloWrestling/19th by InterMat);
174: Cade DeVos (8th by InterMat/10th by FloWrestling);
184: Bennett Berge(16th by InterMat/18th by FloWrestling);
197: Tanner Sloan (2nd by FloWrestling/3rd by InterMat).
CARLSON, SLOAN SELECTED FOR ALL-STAR CLASSIC: Returning All-Americans Clay Carlson and Tanner Sloan have been selected to represent the South Dakota State University wrestling team at the 2023 NWCA All-Star Classic, presented by Cliff Keen, later this month.
The exhibition event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. Central) on Nov. 21 at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University and will feature matchups in all 10 collegiate weight classes in the men’s division, as well as four cross-divisional women’s freestyle matches. The event will be available for viewing through FloWrestling.org.
Carlson, a two-time All-American at 141 pounds, is slated to face Lachlan McNeil of North Carolina. A native of Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson placed fifth at 141 pounds at the 2023 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, finishing the season with a 27-10 record. McNeil recorded a fourth-place finish at the national tournament in posting a 27-9 overall record.
Sloan, the 2023 national runner-up at 197 pounds, is scheduled to square off against Aaron Brooks of Penn State. The Alburnett, Iowa, native compiled a 27-3 record in advancing to the national championship bout, while Brooks is a three-time NCAA champion at 184 pounds who is expected to move up a weight class this season.
NEW FACILITY OPENS: South Dakota State marked the start of the calendar year by moving into a new home with the opening of the 16,000-square-foot Kurtenbach Family Wrestling Center.
The South Dakota Board of Regents approved plans for the project in December 2020 and ground was broken in September 2021 for the $4 million on-campus training facility, which is located on the southwest corner of the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Former SDSU wrestler and coach Frank Kurtenbach provided the lead gift for the facility, which features four competition mats, a strength and conditioning area, locker rooms, team room, coaches’ offices and spaces for academics and nutrition.
“This state-of-the-art wrestling facility will forever change the landscape of SDSU Wrestling,” SDSU head coach Damion Hahn said. “I can’t thank our Jackrabbit family enough for the contributions that have been made toward this endeavor. I would like to make a special thank you to the Kurtenbach family for their vision and support of the project.”
COACH HAHN: Damion Hahn is overseeing a successful rebuilding of South Dakota State University wrestling as he enters his sixth season at the helm of the Jackrabbits’ program. Hahn has compiled a 45-30 career dual record and has coached four All-Americans and 22 NCAA qualifiers during his tenure in Brookings.
During the 2019-20 season, the National Wrestling Coaches Association selected 149-pounder Henry Pohlmeyer, 184-pounder Zach Carlson and 197-pounder Tanner Sloan as second-team All-Americans after the NCAA Championships were canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also during the 2019-20 campaign, the Jackrabbits turned in their first winning dual season under Hahn by posting a 12-6 overall record, including a 6-3 mark in the Big 12. Included in the dual wins were victories over nationally ranked Northern Iowa and Stanford.
SDSU also improved by six spots in the Big 12 Conference tournament, finishing fourth in the team standings at the 2020 competition.
Highlighting the 2020-21 season, Clay Carlson wrestled his way to an eighth-place finish at nationals in the 141-pound division. Carlson also was honored as the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an award he would receive again the following year.
In all, five SDSU wrestlers earned a trip to the NCAA Championships in March 2021.
The Jackrabbits returned to the winning side of the ledger during the 2021-22 campaign and also cracked the national rankings as a team for the first time since early in Hahn’s first season. SDSU compiled a 13-4 dual record that included a 21-12 victory at ninth-ranked Missouri, marking the program’s first dual win over a top-10 opponent.
In postseason competition, SDSU placed sixth at the 2022 Big 12 Wrestling Championship and sent four wrestlers on to the NCAA Championships in Detroit.
The 2022-23 season included a 10-dual winning streak en route to a 12-4 record. The Jackrabbits also were strong in tournament settings, placing third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December and posting a sixth-place finish at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship. SDSU went on to send a program-record eight wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, coming away with a 14th-place finish and two All-Americans — Clay Carlson, who placed fifth at 141 pounds and 197-pound runner-up Tanner Sloan.
Hahn’s teams also have performed well in the classroom, earning Top 30 Scholar Team All-America honors from the National Wrestling Coaches Association each of the past three seasons. The 2021-22 squad ranked seventh among Division I programs with a 3.465 grade-point average and six Jackrabbits were recognized individually as NWCA Scholar All-America honorees.
Hahn was hired at SDSU on April 9, 2018, following more than a decade of success as a member of the coaching staff at Cornell (N.Y.).
“Damion represents everything we are looking for in being able to take our wrestling program to the next level,” said SDSU Director of Athletics Justin Sell in announcing the hire. “His success both as a collegiate wrestler and coach, along with his ability to recruit high-achieving student-athletes on and off the mat, made him the ideal candidate. He is a tremendous ambassador for the sport who will work tirelessly to ensure wrestling thrives both on our campus and across the country.”
Hahn spent 12 years as an assistant coach and later the associate head coach at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. During his tenure, the Big Red recorded 11 top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including consecutive runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011. He mentored 50 All-Americans, 12 of whom were individual NCAA champs.
Cornell also won 12 straight Ivy League dual championships and 11 consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association team titles.
In accepting his first head coaching position, Hahn made a return to the Midwest. As a collegiate wrestler at Minnesota, Hahn won NCAA individual national titles as a junior and senior. A four-time All-American, he also was a three-time Big 10 individual champion and was named the Jesse Owens Big 10 Male Athlete of the Year in 2004.
The Golden Gophers won team NCAA championships during both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He finished his collegiate career with a 118-21 record.
Hahn was inducted into the University of Minnesota’s M Club Hall of Fame in 2018.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will be home for a pair of multi-team events next weekend at Frost Arena. South Dakota State begins dual competition Nov. 17 by hosting the Dakota Showcase, which will feature the Jackrabbits, Dakota Wesleyan, Northern State and Augustana competing in a round-robin format. Action across two mats begins at 5 p.m.
On Nov. 19, SDSU will host the annual Daktronics Open. Competition for the individual tournament is slated for a 10 a.m. start at Frost Arena.