Which Gophers Will Step Up and Make an Impact?

By Matt Krumrie

The fact that the 2020 NCAA Division I season was canceled just before the national championships still stings for coaches, wrestlers, and fans. It hurts even more when your team was supposed to host the premiere event, only to see it shut down due to a pandemic.

It was just last March when the Minnesota Gophers were preparing to host the 2020 NCAA DI championships at U.S. Bank Stadium, in what were supposed to be the first championships ever held in a football stadium, and were likely to set NCAA wrestling championship attendance records.

Eight Minnesota wrestlers qualified for those championships. And then, like that, it was canceled because of the Coronavirus. Several of those wrestlers are back this year and looking to take their frustrations out on the mat in 2020-2021.

“We have a lot of guys returning from last season when we were going to host the NCAA Championships at US Bank Stadium,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “That’s when everything got shut down, and that opportunity was taken from them. So for them to get another chance to go out there and compete is something they are really looking forward to.”

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The Huskies Are Loaded Once Again

By Matt Krumrie

The stage was set for another memorable finish to another successful St. Cloud State University wrestling season in March of 2020. The Huskies were ranked No. 1 in the nation and qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAA Division II national championships in Sioux Falls, S.D.

And then…

The beginning of a national pandemic due to the Coronavirus shut down all collegiate athletic competition, including all NCAA wrestling championships. It was heartbreaking for every wrestler and athlete in every sport, including those at SCSU. Head coach Steve Costanzo, now in his 15th leading the nation’s top NCAA Division II wrestling program, talked about that in an open letter to fans in the offseason.

“Not only did we miss our NCAA championship tournament, but we also missed recognizing this team’s amazing run and last year’s senior class,” said Costanzo. “Unfortunately, we won’t get the championship back, nor will those athletes get relief from the NCAA to get that season back.”

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Cobbers Strive to Go From Good to Great

By Matt Krumrie

The Concordia College wrestling team made great strides in 2019-2020 under first-year head coach Quincy Osborn. The Cobbers finished 6th out of 17 teams at the Upper Midwest DIII regional and sent two wrestlers to the NCAA DIII national tournament – the most national qualifiers since 2017 – before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season.

Osborn is optimistic that momentum will continue into this season – and for good reason – a deep and talented roster, led by ten wrestlers who are back for more this season.

“Cobber fans can expect to see a group of young men pushing the pace on the mat and constantly on the attack,” says Osborn. “They can also expect the team to maintain high standards in the classroom and the community. Even though the structure of the season remains undefined, the goal of Concordia Wrestling – to finish with a team trophy at the national tournament – remains the same.”

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Will The Bison Continue to Exceed Expectations?

By Matt Krumrie

The North Dakota State University wrestling team is coming off one of its best seasons at the Division I level and will look to continue its rise to a top-tier Big 12 program.

The Bison were 10-4 in dual meets (6-2 in the Big 12) and qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Division I championships (tied for most qualifiers in program history) before the tournament was canceled due to the Coronavirus. Three of those wrestlers are back this season – 141-pounder Dylan Droegemueller, 157-pounder Jared Franek, and 285-pounder Brandon Metz. In their 10th season under head coach Roger Kish, the Bison return seven total regulars and should again be a top-25 team with sights set on bigger goals at the end of the season.

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Dragons Have the Potential to Surprise

By Matt Krumrie

The Minnesota State University Moorhead wrestling team returns eight starters and five regional place winners heading into the 2020-2021 season. Kris Nelson enters his 14th season as head coach of the Dragons and likes what he sees as he looks ahead to the coming season.

“We are a scrappy team with some hungry individuals that, if we stay healthy, and continue to work hard and improve, could have the potential to surprise people at the regional and national tournaments,” says Nelson. “We have a lot of depth returning as well as a recruiting class we feel can immediately make a positive impact.”

The lineup will get a boost from the return of 2019 125 pound All-American Cole Jones (Grand Rapids). Jones was 29-10 in 2018-19 before injuring his knee and sitting out the 2019-2020 season. He’s won 49 matches in two seasons and should open the season nationally ranked and ready to make an impact at 125 on the national scene.

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Mind Over Matter – Reid Ballantyne

By Brian Jerzak

Stillwater’s senior Reid Ballantyne has a chance to become the seventh high school wrestler in Minnesota history to win five individual state titles. Every one of the other wrestlers who have at least five titles has overcome obstacles and injuries. I doubt any of them had the injury issues of Ballantyne. The senior has endured so many injuries that he is gearing up for a run at a fifth straight title, and then, who knows?

The kind of effort it has taken and is going to take for Ballantyne to win that fifth title – with possibly no expectation of a wrestling career beyond high school – is the definition of dedication. His quest for five titles has been a case of mind over matter.

His dedication to wrestling started early.

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Vikings Are Committed To Succeed

By Matt Krumrie

The Augustana Vikings head into the new season with an experienced roster blended with talented redshirts ready to make an impact. The growth of both groups of wrestlers will eventually determine the success of this year’s team.

“We have a lot of returning starterss and kids with varsity experience,” says Augustana coach Jason Reitmeier, now in his 18th season as head coach of the NCAA Division II program. “We have great leadership from our upperclassmen. Last year our leadership carried over, and it showed in how well our young team approached matches and duals. Last year we exceeded expectations beating five top-25 ranked teams. We showed depth throughout our lineup, and guys stepped up in tough situations. You will see an exciting team that likes to score points, and at times may be overly aggressive, but very fun to watch.”

Several Minnesotans will play a key role in the Vikings’ lineup this year, led by Hunter Burnett of Pipestone. Burnett was a 141-pound national qualifier who was ranked 9th in the NCAA DII national rankings before the 2020 national championships were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Burnett led the Vikings in wins with a 27-9 overall record with six falls, seven major decisions, and eight tech falls. He was also an NWCA Scholar All-American. Burnett is likely moving up to 149 this season.

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