New Bison wrestling coach continues to blaze his own trail

Former world-class athlete Obe Blanc is the first Black head coach in NDSU athletics history

FARGO — The competitive wrestling career of Obenson Blanc was on an impressive path to the Olympic Games, just falling short of that goal when he was named an alternate to the 2012 U.S. team at the London Games. He was a two-time U.S. Open and World Team Trials champion before running out of steam and a coaching career came calling.

He didn’t go looking for it; coaching came to him. Today, at 38 years old, he finds himself a head coach for the first time, being named to the position about a month ago at North Dakota State.

In the process, Blanc became what is believed to be the first Black head coach in NDSU athletics history and, like getting into the profession in the first place, he didn’t go looking for it. It came to him. But he’s well aware of the significance from an overall university perspective, saying just his presence on the sideline “helps take that barrier in their mind away by visually seeing it.”

“I don’t know if it’s as important to me as it perhaps might be to other people,” Blanc said. “For me, I’ve never looked at it that way. I’m not saying there might be some different ceilings and stuff, I’m sure there are, but I’ve just never really had that kind of notion. Be smart and position yourself well, educate yourself and go chase what you want. I’ve never seen my color being a limitation.” Continue reading at →

Power wrestling programs poaching Bison standouts with deep NIL pockets

NDSU All-Americans Jared Franek, Michael Caliendo may be on the move with better offers from bigger programs

There are 78 Division I universities across the country that have a wrestling program. From now until the life of the NCAA’s name, image, likeness stipulation, North Dakota State will forever be at the mercy of a select several.

There are two ways around it: Either the Bison have to adopt some sort of NIL collective or the NIL somehow gets severely restricted with a salary cap of sorts. We give you two examples: Jared Franek and Michael Caliendo.

They are the best 1-2 punch NDSU has put together in a long time and both are now in the NCAA transfer portal because the money that a few schools are putting in front of them will most likely be too hard to pass up. It is believed both are being wooed with six-figure offers; Franek for his final year of eligibility and Caliendo over the course of his final three years.

Welcome to the mid-major head coaching world, Obe Blanc. The former Bison assistant was elevated earlier this month after Roger Kish took a similar position at Oklahoma and for his first head coaching job, Blanc gets the torture of dealing with NIL as a school that doesn’t have it. Continue reading at →

NDSU Trio Named to CSC Academic All-District Team

FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota State Wrestling had three student-athletes named to the 2022-23 College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Men’s At-Large Team, the organization announced on Tuesday.

Seniors Jared Franek, Dylan Droegemueller, and McGwire Midkiff were the Bison student-athletes from wrestling selected to the CSC Academic All-District At-Large Team. All three registered at least a 3.6-grade point average.

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Five-Time All-American Hayden Hidlay Named NDSU Assistant Wrestling Coach

FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota State Wrestling Head Coach Obenson Blanc announced the addition of Hayden Hidlay to the coaching staff Monday afternoon. Hidlay joins the staff as an Assistant Coach, coming to Fargo from North Carolina State.

Hidlay, a native of Lewistown, Pa., was a five-time All-American, four-time ACC Champion and one of the winningest wrestlers in NC State school history before joining the program as a student-athlete development coordinator for the 2022-23 season.

“I am excited to welcome Hayden to our Bison Wrestling coaching staff. Hayden is among the best young leaders I have been able to observe as a coach and I am thrilled to have our athletes around a mentor like Hayden,” said Blanc. “I am looking for coaches who will commit to leading our Bison wrestlers in all aspects of life and Hayden’s resume as an athlete, student, and character are in direct alignment with the goals of this program and institution.”

Last season, he served as personal coach for Trent Hidlay, who earned a silver medal at the U23 World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. He also worked closely with NC State wrestlers Ed Scott (157-pound All-American), Jackson Arrington (149-pound NCAA Qualifier) and Alex Faison (174-pound NCAA Qualifier) during the 2022-23 season.

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NDSU’s Franek Named Big 12 Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year

IRVING, Texas – North Dakota State wrestling’s Jared Franek has been honored as the Big 12 Conference Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year, league officials announced on Friday after a vote of the conference’s head coaches.

A senior from Harwood, North Dakota, Franek has maintained a 4.00 grade-point average as he works towards a Master’s of Business Administration while obtaining NCAA All-American honors on the mat this season, along with his first Big 12 Wrestling Championship at 157 pounds. Franek posted a 27-3 record, including going undefeated in Big 12 duals and the Big 12 Tournament.

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Obenson Blanc Named North Dakota State Wrestling Head Coach

FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota State University director of athletics Matt Larsen announced the hiring of Obenson Blanc as the next head coach of the Bison wrestling program on Friday, May 5. Blanc served the last four seasons on the coaching staff at NDSU, including the last two as associate head coach.

“I’m incredibly excited to keep Obe and his family in Fargo as the new leader of the Bison wrestling program,” said Larsen. “Some of our best seasons and recruiting classes in the Division I era have coincided with his time at NDSU. His leadership coupled with our returning nucleus of wrestlers and incoming recruiting class will keep the momentum of our program moving forward.”

Blanc has worked closely with all facets of the Bison wrestling program while coaching two All-Americans in Jared Franek and Michael Caliendo, and all three of NDSU’s Big 12 Conference champions – Cam Sykora, Luke Weber and Franek. Blanc has also mentored 19 NWCA Scholar All-Americans in his four seasons in Fargo.

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Caliendo Named to Amateur Wrestling News All-Rookie Team

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – North Dakota State wrestling’s Michael Caliendo has been named to the Amateur Wrestling News 2023 All-Rookie Team, announced the publication.

Caliendo wrapped up his redshirt freshman season with the Bison by going 28-5, including All-American honors at the NCAA Championships in March. Caliendo went on to place seventh at the 165-pound weight class, finishing as the only freshman in the division to earn All-American honors. Caliendo posted a 12-5 record against ranked competition, including a victory over former NCAA Champion Shane Griffith.

The all-rookie team is comprised of three wrestlers at each weight class. Penn State’s Levi Haines was named the Rookie of the Year.

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Sooners Name Roger Kish Head Wrestling Coach

NORMAN — University of Oklahoma Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione announced Tuesday that Roger Kish has been hired as OU’s new head wrestling coach. Kish takes the OU reins after presiding over Big 12 Conference affiliate member North Dakota State the last 12 seasons and guiding the Bison to a winning record each of the last five years (48-20 combined).

Kish coached North Dakota State to a 108-70 (.607) dual record since taking over prior to the 2011-12 campaign, including a 50-30 (.625) mark in conference duals (33-26 in the Big 12 and 17-4 in the Western Wrestling Conference). The Bison have been on the upswing under Kish the last five seasons, posting a .706 team winning percentage during the stretch and a 21-7 (.750) record the last two years.

Kish’s 2022-23 NDSU squad went 11-3 in dual competition and finished fifth out of 13 teams at the Big 12 Championship after tying for fourth place in the regular season with a 6-2 record. The Bison, who broke into the top 20 and never left after a 20-16 season-opening road win over No. 8 Nebraska, reached No. 15 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll for their highest official coaches ranking since they moved to Division I in 2006-07. They also reached No. 12 in the InterMat rankings this past season, their highest in any poll in their D-I history. NDSU beat Oklahoma 21-12 in February in Fargo, N.D., and went on to finish 24th at NCAAs after scoring a Division I program-record 25.5 points at the event.

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