Jacks close calendar year at Soldier Salute

The 15th-ranked South Dakota State wrestling team closes out the calendar year by sending a contingent of wrestlers to compete in tournament action on Friday and Saturday at the Soldier Salute.

Session times on Friday are slated for 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Xtreme Arena in Coralville, Iowa. Action concludes Saturday with sessions starting at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. More than a dozen NCAA Division I teams will have wrestlers competing in the two-day tournament.

Video streaming of the Soldier Salute will be available through BigTenPlus.com (subscription required).

The Jackrabbits’ entries will be a mix of starters and reserves as they compete in the Soldier Salute for the second year in a row. Returning All-American Clay Carlson is in line to wrestle for the first time this season at 141 pounds, with fellow returning NCAA qualifier Cael Swensen also scheduled to compete in the 157-pound division.

2022 SOLDIER SALUTE RECAP: Cael Swensen reached the 157-pound finals and a trio of South Dakota State wrestlers turned in third-place finishes as a young Jackrabbit squad wrapped up competition at the inaugural Soldier Salute with a fifth-place finish in the team standings. The two-day tournament was contested Dec. 29-30, 2022, at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

A native of Plymouth, Minnesota, Swensen earned his berth in the championship with a 7-2 decision over Northern Iowa’s R.J. Weston during the Friday afternoon session.

In the championship bout, Swensen fell behind 11th-ranked Jacob Wright of Wyoming by a 4-0 count in the second period after Wright scored on a reversal and two-point near-fall. Swensen managed escapes in both the second and third periods, and drew to within 4-3 on a penalty point for stalling against Wright in the closing seconds, but couldn’t come up the decisive takedown.

Caleb Gross turned in the first third-place finish of the day for the Jackrabbits in the 141-pound division. Gross trailed Iowa’s Drew Bennett, 6-3, late in their consolation semifinal matchup Friday afternoon, but Gross countered with an escape and takedown to force overtime at 6-all. In the extra session, Gross capped his comeback with a takedown with just over 30 seconds remaining to pull out the 8-6 sudden victory.

A native of Pound, Wisconsin, Gross was awarded third place after his scheduled opponent Friday night, Columbia’s Matt Kazimir, withdrew from the tournament for medical reasons.

Gross began the final day of competition with a semifinal major-decision loss to second-ranked Real Woods of Iowa.

Adding third-place finishes for the Jackrabbits were Roman Rogotzke at 184 pounds and freshman heavyweight Luke Rasmussen. After starting the final day with a loss by fall to third-ranked Tony Cassioppi of Iowa, Rasmussen rebounded with a 7-4 victory over Jonathan Chesser of The Citadel, followed by a second-period pin against Wisconsin’s Gannon Rosenfeld in the third-place match.

Also earning a spot on the podium for the Jacks was Alek Martin with a seventh-place showing in the 149-pound weight class. Martin compiled a 4-2 record in the tournament, culminating with a 12-2 major decision over Wyoming’s Chase Zollmann.

Two other South Dakota State wrestlers competed unattached and reached the finals of their respective weight classes. At 165 pounds, Jack Thomsen dropped a 10-5 decision to nationally ranked Patrick Kennedy of Iowa, while freshman Bennett Berge took the Hawkeyes’ Abe Assad to overtime in the 184-pound final before falling by a 6-4 count.

Iowa claimed the team title with 228 points, more than doubling up runner-up Army with 106 points. Wyoming was third with 99.5 points, followed by Columbia with 88.5 points and the Jackrabbits with 79.5.

RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State began 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 tied their highest-ever ranking in the national poll. SDSU was previously ranked 12th for five weeks during the 2017-18 season.

SDSU 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.

Besides 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, including a Jan. 4 date against Michigan at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

Following their recent dual loss at Nebraska, the Jackrabbits dropped one spot to No. 15 in the latest coaches’ poll.

Individually, eight Jackrabbits are in the most recent rankings, highlighted by 174-pounder Cade DeVos, who is ranked third by FloWrestling and fourth by InterMat. DeVos, who won the 174-pound title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational to open the month, is undefeated on the season with a 9-0 record.

Following is the list of Jackrabbits in the most recent individual rankings:
125: Tanner Jordan (18th by FloWrestling/19th by InterMat)
133: Derrick Cardinal (13th by InterMat/17th by FloWrestling)
141: Clay Carlson (7th by InterMat/8th by FloWrestling)
157: Cael Swensen (17th by InterMat/18th by FloWrestling)
165: Tanner Cook (28th by FloWrestling/31st by InterMat)
174: Cade DeVos (3rd by FloWrestling/4th by InterMat)
184: Bennett Berge (23rd by InterMat/24th by FloWrestling)
197: Tanner Sloan (5th by FloWrestling/6th by InterMat)

A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits kick off a two-month stretch of dual meets by taking on nationally ranked Michigan in a Jan. 4 matchup that will take place at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. Start time is slated for 7 p.m.

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