Jackrabbits prep for Big 12 Championship

Conference titles and national tournament berths will once again be on the line this weekend at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The two-day meet at the BOK Center kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday, with that day’s evening session slated for 5 p.m. Competition Sunday begins at noon with consolation semifinals and matches for seventh, fifth, and third places. Championship bouts are set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Live video streaming of the first three rounds will be through Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Sunday night’s championship round will be televised live on ESPN2, with additional coverage on ESPN+.

Big 12 Championships
March 9-10 at Tulsa, Okla.
Trackwrestling | Watch: ESPN+ • ESPN2 | Brackets

South Dakota State has placed sixth in the team standings each of the past two seasons. The Jackrabbits automatically qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships out of the Big 12 tournament last season and gained two more national qualifiers as at-large selections.

Each of the 10 weight classes has been allocated at least five automatic qualifying spots based on finish at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship. League-wide 57 automatic berths have been allocated to Big 12 wrestlers, ranking second only to the Big Ten’s 85.

SEEDINGS AND PAIRINGS: South Dakota State’s Cade DeVos and Tanner Sloan are seeded first in their respective weight classes for this weekend’s Big 12 Wrestling Championship. Conference officials announced the seedings and pairings Monday afternoon.

DeVos is seeded first at 174 pounds after compiling a 20-1 overall record during the regular season. The senior from Altoona, Iowa, has been awarded an opening-round bye and will face the winner between eighth-seeded Brody Conley of West Virginia and Utah Valley’s Mahonri Rushton in the second round.

Sloan has compiled a 19-1 overall record in earning the No. 1 seed at 197 pounds. The senior from Alburnett, Iowa, is slated to square off against Xavier Vasquez of Northern Colorado in the opening round.

In all, nine of the 10 Jackrabbit wrestlers entered in the Big 12 Wrestling Championship are seeded in the top eight of their respective weight classes.

Seeded third at 184 pounds is redshirt freshman Bennett Berge. The Mantorville, Minnesota, native has turned in a 15-3 overall record so far this season. He will open the tournament against Nathan Haas of California Baptist.

In the lower weights, both Tanner Jordan and Derrick Cardinal are seeded fourth at 125 and 133 pounds, respectively. Jordan, who has compiled a 21-7 overall record, is slated to face Noth Dakota State’s Ryan Henningson in the opening round. Cardinal, 19-7 overall, is matched up against Kase Mauger of Utah Valley.

Two-time All-American Clay Carlson holds a No. 5 seeding in the 141-pound weight class, while sophomore Alek Martin earned the same seeding in the 149-pound division. A senior from Willmar, Minnesota, Carlson sat out the first two months of the season due to injury, but has come back to post a 13-5 overall record during the calendar year. He is slated to receive a first-round bye and will meet the winner between No. 4 Jordan Titus of West Virginia and Darren Green of California Baptist.

Martin, 17-8 overall, is scheduled to face Dayne Morton of California Baptist in opening-round action. A sophomore from St. Paris, Ohio, Martin will make his second appearance at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship.

Returning national qualifiers Cael Swensen and Tanner Cook round out the seeded wrestlers for the Jackrabbits. Swensen, a sophomore from Plymouth, Minnesota, is seeded sixth at 157 pounds, while Cook is seventh in the 165-pound weight class.

After a first-round bye, Swensen will meet either third-seeded Teague Travis of Oklahoma State or California Baptist’s Chaz Hallmark in the quarterfinals.

Cook is slated to wrestle former Jackrabbit Jack Thomsen of Northern Iowa in first-round action.

The lone unseeded Jackrabbit wrestler is redshirt freshman heavyweight Luke Rasmussen. The Brookings native has posted a 14-11 overall record this season and is matched up against Wyoming’s Kevin Zimmer in the opening round.

In all, the seven Jackrabbits competing in first-round matches at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship are a combined 5-0 against their opponents this season. Rematches are as follows:
125: #4 Tanner Jordan vs. Ryan Henningson (NDSU) – Jordan won 13-0 major decision, on Feb. 25;
133: #4 Derrick Cardinal vs. Kase Mauger (Utah Valley) – Cardinal won by decision, 8-3, on Feb. 3;
149: #5 Alek Martin vs. Dayne Morton (California Baptist) – Martin won 5-1 decision on Jan. 21;
184: #3 Bennett Berge vs. Nathan Haas (California Baptist) – Berge won by fall (0:46) on Jan. 21;
197: #1 Tanner Sloan vs. Xavier Vasquez (Northenr Colorado) – Sloan won by technical fall (16-0, 6:26) on Jan. 19.

RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State has been climbing the rankings during the new calendar year, reaching its first-ever top-10 ranking in a Division I team poll Jan. 16, checking in at No. 10 in the rankings conducted by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. The Jackrabbits currently stand at No. 11 for the third week in a row.

The Jackrabbits began the 2023-24 season with their highest preseason ranking ever in the NWCA poll with a 12th-place showing in the initial survey, which was announced Oct. 31. That matched SDSU’s previous high-water mark as the Jackrabbits were ranked 12th for five weeks during the 2017-18 season.

SDSU was one of six Big 12 Conference teams to be ranked in the preseason 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 other team rankings, SDSU finished 12th in the dual rankings by both FloWrestling and 13th by InterMat, while standing 13th and 14th, respectively in team tournament surveys. The Jackrabbits also hold down the second spot in the NWCA Mid-Major Top 20.

Individually, nine South Dakota State wrestlers appeared in the Feb. 29 NCAA coaches’ panel rankings with Cade DeVos and Tanner Sloan leading their respective weight classes in ratings percentage index (RPI) heading into postseason competition.

Both DeVos (174 pounds) and Sloan (197 pounds) were fourth in the coach rankings at their weight classes in addition to sitting atop the RPI. DeVos completed the regular season with a 20-1 record, while Sloan has compiled a 19-1 mark.

Sloan, a senior from Alburnett, Iowa, earned runner-up honors at 197 pounds at last year’s national championships.

The coaches’ rankings are determined by a vote of 14 coaches in each weight class with two head coaches from each of the seven conferences. For ranking purposes, coaches may only consider a wrestler that has been designated as a starter at a respective weight class. Wrestlers must have eight Division I matches in the weight class to be considered with at least one match within the last 30 days.

The RPI is a calculation that consists of three factors: winning percentage, opponent winning percentage (strength of schedule) and opponent’s opponent winning percentage (opponent’s strength of schedule). Only matches against Division I opponents at the designated weight class count towards the RPI and a wrestler needs to have wrestled 15 matches to be ranked.

Also ranked individually in the top 10 is 184-pounder Bennett Berge. A redshirt freshman from Mantorville, Minnesota, Berge has put together a 15-3 record so far this season and has won 11 of his last 12 matches to come in at No. 5 in the RPI.

At 125 pounds, Tanner Jordan checks in at No. 14 in the coach rank and 16th in the RPI. The senior from St. Paris, Ohio, has posted a 21-7 record so far this season as he looks to make a return trip to the NCAA Championships.

Other Jackrabbits in the top 20 in the coaches’ rankings are three sophomores: Derrick Cardinal, Alek Martin and Cael Swensen. Cardinal, from Forest Lake, Minnesota, has notched a 19-7 record at 133 pounds and stands 19th in the coach rank and 16th in RPI.

Martin is 19th in the coach rank at 149 pounds and 13th in RPI with a 17-8 record, while Swensen is 17th in the 157-pound coach rank and 23rd for RPI after turning in a 17-7 record.

Two-time All-American Clay Carlson moved into No. 23 in the coach rank at 141 pounds and cracked the RPI survey at No. 27. Carlson sat out the first half of the season due to injury but has come back to post a 3-5 record over the last two months.

Rounding out the rankings is redshirt freshman heavyweight Luke Rasmussen, who is 31st in the coach rank and 29th in RPI with a 14-11 record.

A LOOK AHEAD: The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are slated for March 21-23 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The at-large selections to the tournament field will be announced Tuesday, March 12, with the seedings and pairings revealed during the NCAA Selection Show at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13.

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