Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
The Border Bell was on the line this evening as Bison wrestling and South Dakota State met for the 65th time on the mat. This would be NDSU’s final home dual before the Big 12 Tournament and NCAAs in Pittsburgh. Not only were the Bison looking for their fourth straight dual victory, but the program was looking to snap a four-match losing streak to the Jackrabbits.
What may surprise some casual viewers is to see South Dakota State at only 2-8 in duals and with only one ranked wrestler in their starting lineup. Those marks are a far cry from the South Dakota State wrestling program many are used to seeing. Never the less, however favorable the match-up looked on paper for the Bison, all bets are off in a rivalry dual like this. Yet, you’d be lying to yourself if you think the Bison were not wholly prepared for the Jackrabbits, especially with 14 days to prepare.
In the end, the Bison came out on top with a 31-10 win, taking eight weight classes in the dual. To call it domination would be accurate. “I believe we out-wrestled them tonight,” head coach Roger Kish said after the dual.
Number 1: Cam Sykora does not like South Dakota State
This is fairly self-explanatory on a surface level. North Dakota State athletes and South Dakota State athletes do not like one another, it’s just the way it is. However, for those who are unaware, Sykora had previously wrestled in Brookings for the Jackrabbits. The Wheaton, Minnesota, native transferred to NDSU after his freshman season.
If you follow Cam on social media, you would have seen how eager he was to face his former team yet again (“bunny hunting” as he called it). As the Bison ran out of their locker room before the match, Sykora yelled in excitement towards South Dakota State’s team. His match was the last before the intermission and while Sykora came out with incredible energy against Rylee Molitor, he did struggle to gain complete control of the match. Sykora’s dislike for SDSU was also brought to a new level when Molitor was called for a potentially dangerous maneuver. As Sykora got up, he said something to Molitor (no, I do not know what was said, but I’m sure it was not complimentary).
Never the less, Sykora took the match by decision, winning 7-2. For Cam, who has not seen a team win against the Jacks since transferring, this one had to feel good. It probably felt even better considering he won his own match as well.
Watching Sykora go and grab the Border Bell from South Dakota State’s bench gave me chills. The kid deserved the individual and team result tonight.
Number 2: Roger Kish had a right to be angry
Do you blame him? Just from a viewer’s perspective, everyone in the SHAC knew this was a poorly officiated dual tonight. That can be best summed up by watching the 149-pound match. Jaden Van Maanen had control over Henry Pohlmeyer, ranked 13th in the country when Pohlmeyer turned over top and Van Maanen’s shoulder blades touched the canvas. It was immediately called a fall for Pohlmeyer, who was just as surprised as the crowd. He did not have control over Van Maanen. Unfortunately for the Bison, pins are not reviewable.
“These matches have big implications, I believe he [Van Maanen] earned the win,” said Kish after the dual. He was clearly upset after the call was made and Van Maanen lost. So much so that Kish continued to chat with the referee about it into the 157-pound match and beyond.
There were also several instances in the 165-pound match where I believe Andrew Fogarty pinned his opponent. There was also a multitude of missed near fall points left on the table for the Bison too. All in all, a poor job from the officials this evening. Luckily, it did not deter the Bison from victory.
Roger Kish is already an intense guy, but make a bad call and you’ll see that multiplied by 10. I think Bison fans in attendance tonight would agree that Kish certainly had the right to be a little ornery this evening.
Number 3: This is EXACTLY what NDSU vs SDSU should look like.
This dual was the epitome of college wrestling. Two rivals who hate one another, a fired up crowd and some competitive wrestling made for a fun evening. North Dakota State had not beaten SDSU in four series, dating back three years. Seeing the intensity and want for a team victory was evident this evening for the Bison. While Roger Kish somewhat downplayed it post-dual, I still think winning this one means a lot to him and the team.
“It is what it is. They’ve had some tough kids. At the end of the day, we’re happy to go out and compete well,” Kish said. “There’s a lot more on the line than just wrestling. It’s nice, but we have bigger things to do.”
That bigger thing is being competitive as tournament time rolls around. While securing the Border Bell and winning this latest installment in the rivalry has to feel good, the Bison have bigger fish to fry. Given their newly minted four dual win streak, it’s safe to say the oil is getting hot.