Photo By J. Alan Paul Photography
Third Time’s the Charm
Bison heavyweight Evan Knutson has come a long ways since his days at his uncle’s dairy farm chucking hay with his cousin.
“Me and my cousin get really competitive with it and we’d tell the people on the trailer to try and bury us in the mound and me and him would just be sweating, chugging water bottles between every load,” explained 285-pound Knutson.
Knutson said it benefitted him athletically and made him strong enough to be the heavyweight Wisconsin state runner-up during his senior year at Wausau West High School.
His strength was so overwhelming that he cracked the starting lineup his freshman season at NDSU.
“I was really surprised but I was excited at the same time,” Knutson said. “I wouldn’t say I was ready for it going in but I think it definitely benefitted my wrestling for my career in the end.”
Head Coach Roger Kish would agree with Knutson’s sentiment after seeing his heavyweight qualify for the NCAA Championships the past two seasons. Knutson has also earned four Western Wrestling Conference Wrestler of the Week awards while compiling a stunning 78 career wins.
But the NCAAs remain a problem for the heavyweight who has a 1-5 record in the national meet.
Mowing through hay has done more than help Knutson as he prepares to enter the professional world after graduation.
Knutson fell in love with animals while working on his grandpa’s farm as a kid. He would do anything to help. From feeding cows, to cleaning stalls and other random chores, Knutson was a prototypical farm hand.
NDSU has allowed Knutson to stay involved with livestock. He said about 15 hours a week he helps out at the Animal Nutrition & Physiology Center. This acts as great experience for Knutson who is waiting to hear back from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to see if he gets accepted into their veterinarian program.
Knutson said he has a backup plan. If he isn’t accepted into Wisconsin, he will go to grad school for either muscle physiology or nutrition.
“I’m trying to see which one I’m more passionate about,” Knutson said. “Then I’d reapply to vet school most likely, unless I find something I really like to do before that.”
But before that happens, Knutson has one more thing he’d like to do before ending his career.
“Be an All-American,” Knutson said. “That’s the goal and I plan on it.”
Young, Talented and Ready
Josh Rodriguez is still waiting for his first opportunity to compete with the nation’s top talent at the NCAA Championships. He arrived at NDSU two years ago and wrestled unattached last season.
“Freshman year was a big shock to me,” Rodriguez said. “Just the style of wrestling and the competitors, it was just a whole new level; there were no easy matches. But my redshirt year it was more relaxing and laid back. I had no stress.”
Rodriguez finished 22-15 his freshman season and went 17-0 last year.
Expectations couldn’t have been high for Rodriquez this season after his dominating performances during his first two seasons in college. But just as the season was approaching, the 125-pounder had a setback.
“I banged up my MCL,” Rodriguez said. “It was sprained or something so I was out for almost a month. … Then I injured it again two weeks before competition.”
He missed his first eight matches of the season but returned with vengeance when he beat Virginia’s nationally ranked lightweight Will Mason in his first match back from his injury.
Rodriguez has caught the attention of his teammates and Kurtis Julson told reporters earlier this season he believes Rodriguez has the potential to be an All-American.
The support and confidence from his teammates is comforting said Rodriguez, but the pressure is nothing new because he already puts it on himself.
Rodriguez is 10-3 in duals this season and has positioned himself nicely to join Knutson at the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career this March.