Coach Kish says “this team will be hard to wrestle”
Coming off of a 4-4 Big 12 record in last season’s campaign, the North Dakota State University wrestling team needed to find more consistency and depth for the upcoming season. Success in early tournament performances did not lead to the same in late-season performances. While the Herd had nice wins in both pre-season and early Big 12 matches, there were some disappointments down the stretch.
Heading into this season, NDSU head coach Roger Kish says he has found it. Kish, entering his 12th season at the helm of the Bison program, is excited about the talent and depth of the 2022-’23 edition of the Bison. “Probably the thing we are most excited about is the leadership piece we have in place,” Kish explained. “And as young as we are we have that, those upper-class men to lean on and really show these young guys the way things are done here and the standard in which we perform our day-to-day operations and in competition.”
Coach Kish appreciates the leadership his seniors provide. “You look at this year and no doubt, you’re gonna’ lean on guys like your Jared Franeks, your Dylan Droegemullers, your Owen Pentzs…guys who have been pillars of our program for the last few years,” Kish said. “So, these guys have brought tremendous leadership and the amount of cohesiveness they have with one another has been just phenomenal to watch.”
Those upper-class men are led by three-time NCAA Championships participant, Jared Franek. Franek, a senior who wrestles at the 157-pound weight class, returns to the Bison after another successful season where he finished as the runner-up in his class for the second consecutive season. “Yeah, I’m super excited,” Franek said. “We’ve got a really young line-up but with lots of talent in the two lower classes and they work super hard.” Franek also mentioned two teammates that will be a large part of NDSU’s success this season. “McGwire Midkiff came back for his sixth year and I’m super excited about that,” Franek said. “He’ll wrestle 133 and he’s excited to be back. That’ll be awesome for this team. Also, Dylan [Droegemueller] will be back. He and I are the only fifth-year seniors on the team. So, we’ve seen all the changes and are excited to be back with him after coming up just short last year.”
Droegemueller, for his part, sees an important role for both he and Franek. “I was a captain last year and I am one this year, too,” Droegemueller said. “We have a young team so as a senior guy on the team, I need to continue to lead by example and help with the younger class.” He also expects these freshmen to exceed expectations. “All of our freshmen are really tough,” Droegemueller said. “Fernando [Barreto], Walker [Bents] and [Gavin] Drexler are all tough. I really like their approach.”
The Bison wrestle in the always tough Big 12 conference and to make this season more challenging, Bison schedulers built a difficult non-conference schedule to prepare the Herd for the rigors of the Big 12. “Our schedule reflects the team we have and what we think it could be,” Kish said. “We’ve created an extremely challenging schedule that’s going to push our guys. Not only is our dual meet schedule difficult but the tournament schedule that we put in place is going to complement our dual meet schedule. We believe it will be best at preparing us for the Big 12 tournament as well as NCAAs.”
Franek knows this well. Currently ranked #9 in the 157-pound weight class, Franek will face some tough competition in the early part of the season. “I’ll probably face six or so of the top eight guys in the class between duals and tournaments by Christmas,” Franek said. “That’s super exciting and helps motivate me to be in the best shape I can and get them early.”
North Dakota State opens the home portion of their dual schedule on Friday, November 18th against Binghamton. The first match is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Student tickets are available at gobison.com/students.
Bison shock Cornhuskers in season opener –
Led by redshirt freshman Michael Caliendo’s pin and sophomore D.J. Parker’s technical fall, the North Dakota State wrestling team shocked the #8-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 20-16 in a non-conference dual meet at Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Both teams won five matches, but five bonus points combined from the Caliendo and Parker matches helped push the Bison over the top. Leading 17-16 heading into the heavyweight match, NDSU heavyweight Juan Mora gained a takedown of Nebraska heavyweight Cale Davidson, then ranked #28 in the country, in the final minute of the third period to win his match 2-1 and secure the team victory, 20-16.
In the only match of Top Ten wrestlers, Nebraska’s Peyton Robb, #4 in the class, handed NDSUs 157-pounder Jared Frank a loss in their opening matches of the season, 7-4.
North Dakota State also picked up their first ranked win since defeating #21 Stanford 28-13 on February 15, 2020, in Fargo. It is the second-highest-ranked win in the program’s D1 history, behind only a 25-22 win over No. 6 Boise State on January 15, 2010. It is the highest-ranked win in a true road dual in program history.
Bison wrestlers will next compete in the Bison Open at the SHAC on November 12th. The first matches begin at 9:00 a.m.