Parker’s pin at 184 puts the Herd ahead to stay
Starting off with victories in four of the first five matches, including a first-period pin by the Bison’s DJ Parker, the North Dakota State University wrestling team continued its run through the Big XII wrestling conference with a 21-12 win over the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday night at Scheels Center in the Sanford Health Athletic Center.
Parker, NDSU’s 184-pounder, brought the house down with his pin of Oklahoma’s Keegan Moore with just two seconds left on the clock. The win put the Bison up 15-3 heading into halftime which was enough for the Bison (11-2, 6-1 Big XII) to extend their dual winning streak to seven.
Leading the dual off at 149, was NDSU’s Kellyn March. March, currently ranked #16 in the class, finished off the Sooners’ Mitch Moore in workmanlike fashion 5-0. After a scoreless first period, March began the second on top and managed to turn Moore on his back for a two-point near fall. In the third, March started on the bottom, reversed Moore to go up 4-0 and added a bonus point for riding time to secure the win and give NDSU a 3-0 lead.
North Dakota State’s top two wrestlers, Jared Franek and Michael Caliendo, then won their matches 6-2 and 10-5, respectively. The Sooners’ Jared Butler, who came in unranked and sporting a 13-6 record gave Franek all he could handle. Franek, who leads the Bison in bonus point wins, could not get Butler turned over for extra points and had to settle for a regular decision and three team points for the Bison. Franek (18-1, 7-0 Big XII) has now won 18 straight. Caliendo fared much better with his opponent, Oklahoma’s Gerrit Nijenhuis. Nijenhuis, ranked 23rd at 165, opened up the scoring with an early takedown of the 10th-ranked Caliendo. Caliendo (19-2, 6-1 Big XII) quickly escaped and earned a takedown of his own to regain the lead at 3-2, a lead which he would hold for the win. After three matches, the Bison were up 9-0.
After NDSU’s Gaven Sax dropped a 7-4 decision to the Sooners’ Tate Picklo at 174, Oklahoma closed to within six at 9-3, setting up the Parker/Moore match. Parker, who has a background in Greco-Roman wrestling, threw Moore on his back late in the period to set up the fall at 1:58.
“I’ve had a Greco background and the guys are always making jokes asking me why I don’t throw anybody,” Parker explained. “It was kinda’ cool to be able to show them that.”
With the end of the Parker match, it was halftime and the Bison and Sooners headed to the locker rooms in front of a roaring crowd of 706 Bison faithful at Scheels Center and a 15-3 North Dakota State lead.
“It was a nice crowd out there tonight that came out and supported our guys,” NDSU Head Coach Roger Kish said. “Really grateful to our community to show up and support our guys.”
Opening the back half of the dual was NDSU’s Owen Pentz. Pentz, ranked #11 in the country, faced Oklahoma’s Carson Berryhill. In another tight match, Pentz squeaked out a 6-5 win as Berryhill fought off Pentz’s attempts at adding another pin to his already impressive stats and a bonus point victory for the Bison. Berryhill not only kept it close but took down Pentz late in the third to make the match uncomfortable for the Bison faithful.
In one of the best matches of the night, NDSU heavyweight, Juan Mora, dropped a 4-2 decision in a multi-overtime match to the Sooners’ Josh Heindselman. After trading one-point escapes, the first overtime period solved nothing. In the second OT period, Mora escaped from the bottom position to go up 2-1. In the third overtime, Heindselman, ranked #14, escaped from Mora and took him down after countering Mora’s takedown attempt. The match went into the loss column for the Herd, but it was easily one of the most entertaining bouts of the evening.
Now it was the Sooners’ turn to make things interesting. Shifting to the lower weights, Oklahoma’s 19th-ranked 125-pounder Joey Prata defeated NDSU’s Carlos Negrete, Jr. 3-2. With a 1-0 lead to start the third, Prata chose to start in the neutral position and secured a takedown of Negrete to go up 3-1 and hung on for the win. Oklahoma was now down 18-9 with two ranked Sooners waiting their turn to step on the mat.
Following Prata’s win at 125, the Sooner’s Wyatt Henson faced NDSU’s McGwire Midkiff at 133. Henson, ranked #27, looked slow at the beginning of the match and never really recovered. Midkiff collected a first-period takedown and while unable to turn Henson, collected valuable riding time. Heading into the third with a 3-2 lead, Henson chose to start in the neutral position. That backfired as Midkiff took Henson down with a double-leg shot and turned him over for a four-point near-fall. While he was unable to pin Henson, Midkiff maintained control solidifying the single riding time point for the 10-3 win which clinched the dual victory for the Bison.
“Definitely a relief. I felt like it was a long time coming,” Midkiff said. “I felt like I’ve been good enough to win matches like that all year. I just needed that one to get me over the hump and that’s what happened tonight. And it’s happening at the right time.”
With the match now out of reach for the Sooners, the highly anticipated match at 141 between OSU’s #7 Mosha Schwartz and NDSU’s #30 Dylan Droegemueller was anti-climactic. Schwartz collected a 5-2 win to give the Sooners another three team points to finish the dual.
“Hats off to OU, that’s a really strong team they’ve got. We feel like this is the first time this season they put out their best lineup,” Kish shared. “The guys that stepped on the mat for them are the guys we prepared for. So proud of our guys for coming out with a lot of excitement and energy and wrestling well. It was a hard-fought dual.”
Tale of the Scale –
NDSU is now 2-2 all-time against Oklahoma. Both losses were in Norman (2016 & 2019). Both wins were in Fargo (2021 & 2023).
The only bonus point win of the dual was Parker’s pin at 184.
All NDSU’s ranked wrestlers won except for Dylan Droegemueller (#30) at 141. Midkiff was the lone non-ranked NDSU wrestler to collect a win.
Franek (18), Caliendo (7), Parker (7) and March (6) keep their winning streaks alive.
The Big XII picture –
After Friday’s matches, the Big XII shapes up like this:
– Iowa State 6-0
– Oklahoma State 7-1
– Missouri 6-1
– NDSU 6-1
– SDSU 5-1
Could the Bison grab a share of the conference title with a win over the Jacks? We shall see…Iowa State is @ Missouri on Wednesday night. SDSU is @ NDSU on Sunday afternoon. Oklahoma State is @ Oklahoma on Feb. 17th.
Next up for the Herd –
The Bison welcome the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (11-3, 5-1 Big XII) to the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse on Sunday, February 19th for their final dual of the Big XII campaign. The first match is scheduled for 2 p.m. The match will be televised on WDAY Xtra. Student tickets are available at gobison.com/students.