(NDSU’s Cam Sykora WBF over Northern Colorado’s Rico Montoya in the third place match)
It may not have been the Sunday that the coach staff was looking for, but overall the NDSU Bison had a strong showing in the second Big 12 tournament in the program’s history, finishing in fourth place in the team race with 82.5 points and advancing four wrestlers through the the NCAA Championship starting March 16 in St. Louis, MO.
Day one of the two day tournament saw NDSU advance two wrestlers, 125 Josh Rodriguez and 157 Clay Ream, to the championship finals. Both Rodriguez and Ream advanced in dominating fashion, Rodriguez with a 2:18 second fall over Oklahoma’s Christian Moody, and Ream by major decision over Iowa State’s Colton DiBlasi. The Friday evening victories ensured that both wrestlers would advance to the NCAA tournament and set up important title bouts with foes from #2 ranked Oklahoma State. 133 Cam Sykora and 165 Andrew Fogarty also made the championship semifinals Friday evening. Sykora fell to second ranked Seth Gross of South Dakota State and Fogarty to West Virginia’s Dylan Cotrell.
Sunday’s wrestle back round saw NDSU fall from their second place perch as close losses affected the Bison team score. After losing in the semifinals, 165 Andrew Fogarty lost two one-point decision in the wrestlebacks to finish sixth. The 165 pound weight class only qualified five wrestlers for nationals, so Fogarty, who earned an automatic qualifier spot for the Big 12 with his season’s body of work, will be forced to wait until the Wednesday’s wild card selections are released to find out if he qualified for his first NCAA tournament. The NDSU redshirt freshman has a strong body of work and stands a good chance to qualify. Frustrations continued for the Bison at 184, where Tyler McNutt gave up a late takedown to Martin Mueller of SDSU in the consolation semifinals and went on to finish sixth. McNutt controlled the match with Mueller from the start, but allowed the SDSU freshman to remainwithin striking distance. McNutt scored a major decision victory over Mueller in NDSU’s dual with South Dakota State two weekends ago. 197 Cordell Eaton, who entered the tournament seeded eighth and needed to finish in the top five to qualify for NCAA’s, wrestled admirably but came up just short in the fifth lace match with Marcus Harrington of Iowa State. The NCAA qualifying match was back and forth throughout, but Harrington ultimately held on for a 14-11 victory. Like Fogarty, Eaton also has a chance at a wild card to the NCAA tournament, but his chances are probably not as strong.
The day two bright spot for NDSU came from 133 Cam Sykora. After losing to #2 ranked Gross in the semifinals Saturday evening, Sykora scored a major decision and technical fall on his way to a third place finish and automatic ticket to NCAA’s.
The fourth NDSU national qualifier was heavyweight Ben Tynan. Tynan qualified with a 6-1 victory in the consolation semifinals over Brandon Tribble of Wyoming. The NDSU senior finished fourth.
Looking for the first Big 12 champion in school history, NDSU came up short in both championship matches Sunday afternoon. Josh Rodriguez fell in an overtime decision 7-5 to Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni, and Ream lost by 8-0 major decision to Cowboy All American Joseph Smith. In spite of the losses, but Rodriguez and Reams should be seeded in the top 16 when brackets are released Wednesday.