Photos By Tech Fall
The NDSU wrestling program enters its third season in the Big 12 with big expectations. The team may have lost NCAA Championship qualifying heavyweight and 125-pound wrestlers Ben Tynan and Josh Rodriguez but head coach Roger Kish has every weight class in-between ready for big-time battles against the country’s elite.
Conversation with Roger Kish
Bison Illustrated: What excites you the most about these duals against four ranked opponents before you head to South Beach?
Roger Kish: “I think getting these young men the experience and some high-pressure situations and put them in some atmospheres that are extremely challenging. When you get down to Iowa, you see they’ll wrestle in front of 10,000 people in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with a loud angry crowd and I think that’s a great way to get these young men to perform in high-level pressure situations and to get them that experience, get them adapted and challenge them early in the year. That’s how we want to position our guys. We want to challenge them and experience high-pressure situations and expect them to compete and perform well when they have to.”
BI: What does it say about this program’s maturation that you scheduled a dual against the No. 3 team in the country at the SHAC?
Kish: “It’s just Oklahoma State, you know? It’s a big deal but to our guys, it’s just another Division I wrestling match with a good team and I think you look at some of the individual matchups and it’s just exciting to put all those matchups together and you have quite the talented group of wrestlers at that stage.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for the community to come out and support the North Dakota State program and to be able to bring in high-level programs and competition.”
Three Storylines to Follow
1. Clay Ream’s Redemption Tour
Clay Ream qualified for his third NCAA Championship last spring but went 0-2. As one of the top returning 157-pound wrestlers in the country, he’s expected to bounce back in a big way in his senior season.
“He was certainly devastated with how he finished the season last year … That’s just part of the game and part of the sport. He’s okay, he’s got a short memory, he knows he’s right there with the best guys in the country. He can beat any one of those guys, that’s all there really is to it.”
2. Cordell Eaton’s Emergence
Sophomore 197-pounder Cordell Eaton was one win away in the Big 12 tournament from gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. He was skipped over for an at-large bid. He went 17-15 in his first year wrestling for NDSU and has solidified his spot at the 197-pound weight class.
“At any given time, he can knock off one of those top-tier guys, but at any given time, he could struggle against a guy he shouldn’t struggle against. That’s what we’re trying to get cleaned up, and it’s really about making adjustments and fixing the problems that we’ve had in the past and getting a little better each time he wrestles.”
3. Who Wrestles at 149
There’s a realistic possibility the Bison give three different wrestlers a chance to wrestle in the 149-pound weight class this season. Junior Mitch Friedman joins seniors Kyle Gliva and Mitch Bengtson as the trio that is talented enough to wrestle for the Bison. Only time will tell who stands out in this group of 149ers.
“If we could get all three of them out there, it would only help our cause of being stronger as a whole. But that’s not the case for this year and that’s okay, too. We’re going to make the most of it and ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s going to help all three of these young men compete at a high level every single day.”