History was made inside the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University on Saturday as the North Dakota State wrestling team won its first NCAA West Regional championship.
While hoisting up the team title, the Bison also collected three individual titles. Bison senior Steven Monk, sophomore Hayden Zillmer and junior Evan Knutson won their weight classes and helped the team beat defending champion Wyoming, 74-66.
Monk was crowned as the West Regional’s Most Outstanding Wrestler for the Bison and head coach Roger Kish was awarded with Coach of the Year for the second season in a row.
At 165 pounds, Monk prevailed in both matches by fall, first by pinning Air Force junior Jesse Stafford in the first period in the semifinals and then in the championship match, he pinned Wyoming junior Dakota Friesth with four minutes, 28 seconds left on the clock. With the title win, Monk now has three Western Regional titles in his pocket.
Zillmer registered a pair of decisions at 174 pounds to make his first NCAA Championship appearance on March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla. In the semifinals, Zillmer beat Utah Valley senior Monte Schmalhaus, 5-1, and then beat South Dakota State junior John Nething, 8-3, in the finals.
Knutson pinned SDSU sophomore J.J. Everard in two minutes and 20 seconds at 285 pounds in the semifinals and then in the finals he posted a 4-1 decision over Utah Valley junior Adam Fager.
Coming into this tournament, Wyoming had come away with the title last season by three points, preventing the Bison from their first West Regional team championship.
Bison senior 133-pounder Justin LaValle, junior 184-pounder Kurtis Julson and freshman 197-pounder Tyler Lehmann all finished with runner-up honors. Julson had a chance for a spot in the NCAA Championships, but lost to Air Force senior Devin Hightower by a 3-1 decision.
NDSU redshirt freshman Clay Cathey and senior Tyler Diamond both finished in third place at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively.
The Bison finished 4-1 in the WWC this season with blowout wins against Air Force, Utah Valley, Northern Colorado and SDSU. Wyoming has owned the WWC by claiming four out of the past six regular season titles. However, NDSU finished strong in the regular season ranking at No. 21 in the final poll.
To select the remaining 40 at-large qualifiers, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in person at the end of all the qualifying events. Those 40 wrestlers will be notified on March 12 and all the weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers. Looking back to last year, the WWC had three wrestlers earn at-large selections.