Wrestling

March Mania: Eyeing The Big Stage

Sophomore heavyweight Brandon Metz has his sights set on the podium this March.

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Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt

Brandon Metz lives for the big moments on the mat. Whether it was his illustrious high school career at West Fargo High School or his career at North Dakota State, he has seemed to step up when it matters most. One can look to his match last season against 11th ranked heavyweight Tate Orndorff as evidence. Metz, who was unranked going into the match used his patented move, a double underhook takedown, to get Orndorff in near fall criteria. With Orndorff’s shoulder blades on the mat, the ref blew the whistle, Metz had pinned the mighty heavyweight from Utah Valley.

 

There are countless other instances that showcases just how much potential Brandon Metz has. So, it came as a surprise to many when Metz bowed out of last year’s Big 12 Tournament, losing his first two matches in Tulsa. Not only were many forecasting a potential podium finish for Metz, but his performance in Tulsa dashed his chances of competing on the national stage.

While his finish to 2019 was frustrating, Metz says he used it as motivation to improve coming into 2019-20.

“My mindset was really being focused on improving in a number of different areas. I was really frustrated with how my season ended last year. I thought there were some signs of good things, but I know my potential and I know I didn’t reach it last year,” Metz said. “The whole offseason I used that as motivation and changing my wrestling, not just my wrestling but my body as well. Going into it every day, I want to work as hard as I possibly can because I don’t want to have that same feeling in March that I did last year.”

And improve he has. To date, Metz is one of the most daunting forces at 285 pounds in the Big 12. He has notched 20 wins in 2019-20 including four of those by fall. It is Metz’s commitment to offensive aggressiveness that has guided him to success as the postseason draws closer.

“Last year, I was a little stagnant and wrestled a lot of close matches and I wasn’t getting my own stuff. This year, I feel like I’m going into matches more confident in my ability to do my stuff,” he said. “That goes a long way and I’ve been training harder. When you trust your training, it makes things a lot easier on the mat.”

Being aggressive at the point of attack is not the only thing Metz has worked to improve over the course of the year. Head coach Roger Kish often says that the regular season provides the building blocks to succeed in the postseason. Because of this, Bison wrestlers, Metz included, must be constantly improving as the season moves along. Not doing so could lead to stagnation and may lead to poor results come conference tournament time.

“It’s all about finding things to work on. Every match, you’ll find different things you need to work on and get better at, I know that for a fact. Each match, there is something I didn’t like or something I need to work on where I can get in the room the following week and work on it,” Metz said. “That’s just how it is until March. Nothing really matters until March when you step out on the mat, but this stuff matters because it is important to get better each day. It won’t matter in March if you’re not improving constantly.”

While skill is vital in succeeding on the mat, one cannot underestimate the role confidence plays into a wrestler’s success. A lack of confidence in your own ability can lead to hesitant behavior on the mat. Obviously, that directly impacts the win-loss column for the student-athlete. For Metz, confidence and pride can be found in his love for the Fargo area. A local product from West Fargo, Metz strives to make the community proud of him and their Bison wrestling program.

“It’s an awesome role,” Metz said of having the “hometown kid” distinction. “Me and Jared [Franek], personally, we both love it and we love being from here and representing NDSU. Having our friends, family and everyone around us supporting us so closely, it drives us that much more. We want to do well for our city, our area and North Dakota State.”

Roger Kish’s group has plenty to be confident about as they head to Tulsa for the Big 12 Championships in early March. The Bison have picked up some impressive dual victories in 2020 and have made school history in the process. Perhaps the biggest is the team’s win over Oklahoma on January 24. It was the first time North Dakota State had defeated the Big 12 giant in their tenure in the conference. The Bison have also had big conference wins over Utah Valley, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Air Force and Fresno State.

“It boosts our confidence all around. Even for guys that might be under .500 wrestlers, I think they see that,” Metz said of beating big- name opponents in duals. “When they’re competing in this room each day and see that, they learn that they can wrestle with the best, no matter who they are. It’s a great thing.”

With the Big 12 Championships on the horizon, Metz has some goals in mind heading into the postseason. Not surprisingly, they involve performing better than last year when down in Tulsa.

“My goal is to keep improving every day until Big 12s. The goal is to end up on top of the podium and hopefully not be NDSU’s first Big 12 Champion, but be up there with other teammates as Big 12 Champions,” Metz said. NDSU has never had a Big 12 wrestling champion, but a litany of runner-ups, including current 165-pounder Andrew Fogarty. “I think that’s the goal for everyone.”

Beyond the conference tournament, Metz wants to be competing at the NCAA Championships this year as well. With the tournament taking place at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this season, many Bison wrestlers are excited about wrestling in a tournament that big so close to home. In Metz’s case, it is just a hop, skip and jump from West Fargo.

“There have been people who are not even super connected to wrestling that have said they are going to be there and they want to watch me wrestle,” Metz said of NCAAs in Minneapolis. “That is so cool to have friends tell you that. It makes it that much bigger of a deal, I think.”

Brandon Metz is built for moments like the Big 12 Championships. He understands the magnitude of each bout in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Metz also knows what failure looks like at that tournament. With all of that in mind and an eye on the podium, you might be silly to stand in Brandon Metz’s way.

NDSU Wrestling In March

Division I 

– 2 Conference Championships (All In Western Wrestling Conference)
– Fourth Place Finish at Big 12 Championships in 2017 (Highest finish in Big 12 era)
– 7 Big 12 runner-ups

Division II

– 17 Conference Championships (All in North Central Conference)
– 4 National Championships (1988, 1998, 2000, 2001)
– 30 Individual National Champions (21 student-athletes)

March Mania: Eyeing The Big Stage
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