Photos Courtesy of Tech-Fall
Interview from March 20.
Head coach Roger Kish gives us his reaction to NDSU’s wrestling season and how his five wrestlers performed during the NCAA Championships.
Bison Illustrated: What was the mood like on the last day, watching the finals with your five wrestlers who qualified for the tournament this year?
Roger Kish: “I think it was bittersweet. It’s wrestling so it’s fun to be there and be a part of the tournament in a different way. The excitement of what could and should be for the guys is there. But again, it’s disappointing that we didn’t have the opportunity to be wrestling on Saturday.”
BI: Your first year here as an assistant two wrestlers qualified and went a combined 0-4. How are the expectations different now?
RK: “We expect our guys to go down there and win matches and have an opportunity to wrestle their way onto the podium. There’s certainly the expectation there. We talk about it. We have the kids in place and we have a great staff and great administration with tons of support.
BI: Josh Rodriguez finishes his career down there, but failed to reach the podium. What’s he meant to this program?
RK: “He’s done such a great job. You feel so bad for a guy like that who didn’t end his career the way he was anticipating and the way he trained for. You feel terrible for the way it ended.
“What he’s meant to our program has been so significant in continuing to win matches and being a leader for the other guys. And just showing the young guys how to train, how to compete, and how to wrestle hard and score points. He’s been so significant, so we’re extremely thankful for everything he has done for Bison wrestling.”
BI: How did you feel the two freshmen, Cam Sykora and Andrew Fogarty, performed?
RK: “Again, they have expectations and they wanted to perform better than they did. They have the ability and the tools to be able to do that. I know they were pretty bummed out about their end results. But, as a coach, you reflect and understand that they’re just young kids, they’re freshmen, any time you have a freshman wrestle on Day Two of the NCAA Tournament, it’s a good thing.
“They’ve come a long ways since the beginning of the season. They’re going to have great careers and we’re really excited for those guys and the experience is going to take them a long way.”
BI: Was Sykora “misseeded”? He came out and won his first match 11-4 against the 16th-seeded wrestler.
RK: “Yeah, for that match, he really wrestled well. He was ready to go and excited. It was a seeded kid, which at the NCAA Tournament, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. You gotta beat everybody anyway, regardless of the route you take. I think history has shown that.
“I don’t think he went into the tournament expecting to be a seeded wrestler, and you know what, that’s not a bad thing either. He’s not carrying some of the pressures of carrying a seed and expected performances. That can certainly weigh on a guy, too. He went out there and he earned what he got, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough this year. We’ll get back to work and start training for next season.”
BI: Clay Ream entered the tournament as a 6-seed, but lost his first two matches. What happened?
RK: “I think that’s going to take some time for Clay to digest and maybe reflect with plenty of time here and just take time and collect himself. It’s a long grueling season and the reality is, everything up to the NCAA Tournament doesn’t matter once March comes around so, the seeds, the match that he wrestled, for one reason or another, (he) just had a bad weekend and that happens.
“Clay just had a bad weekend of wrestling and it’s unfortunate because he had such a great season, and he’s really limited his mistakes in wrestling matches throughout this season and to come out in the NCAA Tournament and just have a bad weekend – it happens to the best guys in the country. I could name a handful of names off the top of my head that it’s happened to. Unfortunately, Clay had a bad weekend and we’ll be able to dissect the reasons behind it but sometimes you can’t control it and it is what it is.“We’ll get back to the drawing board. He’s a good wrestler, he’s proved that he’s beaten multiple All-Americans throughout his career and throughout the season this year and he’s beaten them significantly. … He’s a resilient kid, he’ll come back, he’ll suck it up and make the adjustments and we’ll start preparing here for the future.”
“We’ll get back to the drawing board. He’s a good wrestler, he’s proved that he’s beaten multiple All-Americans throughout his career and throughout the season this year and he’s beaten them significantly. … He’s a resilient kid, he’ll come back, he’ll suck it up and make the adjustments and we’ll start preparing here for the future.”
BI: What does Ream’s second Elite 90 Award mean for NDSU?
RK: “It’s a great accomplishment for Clay Ream. I know it’s bittersweet for Clay. The only thing better than winning an Elite 90 Award is being on that podium and having an Elite 90 Award in the other hand.
“I know it’s something that he takes a lot of pride in and is very proud of that award, and I don’t know if there’s ever been a guy that’s won back-to-back Elite 90 Awards in wrestling.”
BI: What type of challenges are you faced with a junior college transfer like Ben Tynan who only has two years of eligibility with NDSU?
RK: “I tell you what, I think with his wrestling history, coming from a junior college out of Washington, he’s done a great job for us, and you look at his results this year, I know he probably struggled more his first season with us.
“His overall addition to our program has been significant at the heavyweight spot. He’s been a good leader to these younger guys and younger heavyweights. He’s really done a great job.
“The biggest obstacle his first year was trying to get him up to size. He was an undersized heavyweight last year, so trying to balance that and getting him better at wrestling at the bigger size and adjusting to wrestling Division I Big 12 heavyweights, while being undersized and thrown into a new system is a challenge.
“He’s done a great job last year for us and making the adjustments and then he had a great summer and was able to go out and put together a great year for us. (I’m) really happy with everything he has done and the leadership he provided and being a clutch heavyweight for us in so many competitions and dual meets throughout the season.”
BI: Who will replace Tynan next year and become the next Bison heavyweight?
RK: “That’s a good question. I know we have some solid heavyweights that are on the squad right now. Dan Stibral, who will be going into his third year with us next season, I know he’s been pushing Ben throughout his career and those guys have battled daily in our wrestling room.
“We have a couple other big guys coming in, to challenge and push Dan for that spot. We anticipate that it’s going to happen and we hope it does. We certainly want to create competition within our room and make these guys extremely competitive with one another and with one starting spot on the line, we’ll certainly get the most out of these young men.”
BI: You mentioned a dual with Oklahoma State here in Fargo. Is that happening?
RK: “We’re working on it. We haven’t released any information about it, but I know we’re working with Oklahoma State on setting up a time and place for the dual meet. But it will be held in Fargo.
“That will be an extremely big dual. They’re a top team in the country and getting them here in Fargo will be a lot of fun. We’re certainly excited to get those boys here in Fargo and giving them a chance to compete.”
PAST NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS IN DIVISION I ERA
2006-07 – 3
2007-08 – 3
2008-09 – 0
2009-10 – 2
2010-11 – 2
2011-12 – 3
2012-13 – 4*
2013-14 – 4*
2014-15 – 6*
2015-16 – 3
2016-17 – 5
*Claimed an individual All-American honor
2016-17 BISON WRESTLING FAQS
Overall Record: 14-5
Big 12 Record: 4-3
Big 12 Tournament: 4th; 82.5 points
NCAA Championship Qualifiers: Five
NCAA Championship Team: T47th; 3 points