Bison wrestling has been a hidden gem within the NDSU Athletic program, but it’s one of the most successful athletic teams on campus. After spinning its wheels through it first seven years of existence, Bucky Maughan arrived and took the program to the top. The wrestling program is now in its 11th year at the Division I level, and the success has quickly followed thanks to timely coaching and an unbreakable culture.
Heart of the Program
Bucky Maughan was the head coach at NDSU for 46 years. Maughan is credited for lifting the wrestling program to new height, accumulating a record of 467-157-13 during his tenure. Maughan led the Bison to 17 conference championships and oversaw the program during its transitional period to Division I. Maughan was a two-time NAIA champion at Minnesota State-Moorhead and was inducted to the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
Building from Scratch
Step 1 – Facility
When Bucky Maughan took over the wrestling team in 1964, the program was hidden away in the basement of the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse. With less-than-ideal conditions to build a dominant program, Maughan worked with then athletic director, Darrell Mudra, to find a better facility.
Maughan remembers the conditions in that old basement. “It was originally going to be a swimming pool, but they covered it up because they had no money. They sprayed this stucco-like material on the ceiling and then they the shot on the stage above us, and every time the shot hit the floor, the stucco would fall on the mat and we’d have to sweep the mats off.”
Realizing the lack of space and difficult environment, Mudra developed a plan. He worked with the university and implemented required physical education classes for incoming freshmen. The growing interest in the athletic department and physical education program created a need for more space.
That’s when NDSU made plans to build the Bison Sports Arena so they could move most of the athletic department out of the BBF.
The wrestling team moved its program inside the BSA and had suddenly had one of the top wrestling facilities in the nation.
“The first event in the building was the Bison Open in the fall of that year,” Maughan said about the 1970-71 season. That year would also yield NDSU’s first two individual Division II national champions, Bill Demaray and Bob Backlund.
The program will move into the Sanford Health Athletic Complex after the building completion in 2016. It will be another giant step forward for the program that will be housed in a state-of-the-art facility.
Step 2 – Recruiting
North Dakota high school wrestling was only 4 years old when Maughan arrived at NDSU. Today, it remains in it infancy but has grown to house over 20 Class A schools.
The first area Maughan would learn to recruit heavily was his home state of Pennsylvania, where 600 to 700 high school compete in wrestling. Minnesota was another area Maughan planted his stakes and where many of his All-Americans came from.
Today, recruiting has been one of the strengths of roger Kish’s staff. The 2013 recruiting class was ranked fourth in the nation according to Intermat.
Step 3 – USA Wrestling
“Another thing that’s helped NDSU immensely is having the USA Wrestling tournament here in the summer,” Maughan said. “Every good kid in the country, that wants to get a scholarship, is going to be wrestling in that.”
For 20 years, the ASICS/Vaughan Cadet & Junior Nationals have taken place during the summer inside the FargoDome.
The tournament draws the best of the best young talent to Fargo for one week to compete for national recognition.
“Of course lately with GameDay and the national tournament, the perception of Fargo has changed,” son of Bucky, Jack Maughan said. “But early on, 20 years ago, there were people that maybe thought that Bison roamed the streets and all they saw was 40 below. It’s nice that every good kid in the country has been to Fargo once so it’s not the first time.”
Many wrestlers that commit to NDSU have competed in the national high school tournament in Fargo including Coach Kish, who was here two times before going to college at Minnesota.
With new facilities, better recruiting and the USA Wrestling tournament juxtaposed, the Bison have put themselves in the driver’s seat to becoming a national power among the college wrestling elite.