- Next season, North Dakota will sorely miss the upper weight run of Jesse Shearer, Sam Grove, Jordan Will, and Brandon Metz. All four are high school graduates that will compete at the college level next season, and Shearer, Grove, and Metz are taking their talents to Division 1 institutions. Though this group is irreplaceable, a few underclassmen showed that all is not lost for North Dakota in the upper weights next summer. Bismarck’s Matt Kaylor should step in and not miss a step at 220 (projected), and Andre Baguma (Fargo, 285) and Jacob Boehm (Mandan, 195) both got valuable experience that should results in success for both in Tulsa next year.
- Brandon Metz finished the weekend 16-0 across both styles, and in doing so scored big wins over nationally ranked Kevin Vough (Ohio) and Tyler Curd (MO). The match with Vough was textbook Metz: Constant action and attacking that frustrated a national level talent and ultimately led to a convincing 13-0 technical fall victory. The 5-3 freestyle victory over Curd showed a side that I would like to see more of from Metz. From the start, Metz controlled the center of the mat and kept it for the majority of the six minutes. The NDSU signee made only one minor error in giving up a takedown to a skilled competitor, but was smart enough to not make matters worse by trying something crazy in a tight match. The match was a prime example of the the patience needed to beat the best 285’s in the country at any level. When Metz combines the best parts of his fearless attacking mentality from the Vough match with the tactical bout against Curd, he is very hard to beat. We will find out where Metz stands this July in Fargo, where the 285 field should be loaded with talented wrestlers including Illinois phenom Anthony Cassioppi. Cassioppi has been the best heavyweight in the country this side of Minnesota’s Gable Steveson over the last few months and gave Metz a sound beating at UWW Junior nationals in May.
- MSUM is getting a D1 talent in Century graduate Mason Schulz. Schulz went undefeated in the freestyle tournament and took one loss on the Greco side over the course of the four days. I have spoken to numerous North Dakota wrestling afficianados over the course of the last year, and all agree that Schulz is capable of great things at the next level. Technically speaking, Schulz might be one of the best wrestlers North Dakota has seen in the post 2000 era. If the Century graduate can strengthen his mental game to the point where he no longer has lapses in tough matches, there is no doubt in my mind he can be an instant difference maker for Coach Kris Nelson’s Dragons. It will be telling to see how Schulz navigates the Fargo field in both Greco and Freestyle. If he stays focused for the entirety of both tournaments, he could very well end up a double All American. I will also be very interested to see how Mason fares in the early open tournaments for the Dragons next November.
- Though Hettinger’s Kyle Burwick came one loss short of making the Freestyle All Tournament Team at Fargo (He lost a 10-3 decision vs. Georgia’s Tyler Hunt), his game is significantly stronger than it was last year at this time. Of course it should be expected that Burwick would continue to make gains given he just finished his sophomore season. That said, continued improvement is a challenge when a wrestler is that much better than his in-state high school competition. Last season, Burwick seemed at times uncomfortable wrestling from ties and spent most of his time attacking low singles from space. Against high level competition, this sometimes led to a few bad shots per match that put Burwick into the tough position of defending the front headlock. This year, Burwick is heavy handed from ties and creating his own front head opportunities by putting opponents faces in the mat. Burwick has also developed a beautiful hi crotch that has a much higher finish percentage than scramble-creating low singles. From par-terre, Burwick’s leg lace technique is solid and with more work will become unstoppable. With a nice showing in Fargo and continued improvement, we should see Burwick enter the national rankings this fall.
- Davies grappler Richard Dralu filled a huge void for Team North Dakota by wrestling 170 pounds for the Blue squad all weekend, and I’m sure he left the four day tournament dejected. Dralu, who was 0-2 at the North Dakota Class A state tournament in February, went 0-13 combined in Freestyle and Greco and was pinned by Penn State recruit Travis Wittlake Jr. in :30. But, he also saved Team North Dakota valuable points in nine duals by staying off his back. North Dakota Blue won a Greco dual with Minnesota Red 34-32, and that razor thin margin would have been a point closer had Dralu not competed. Many wrestlers would have mailed it in after finishing 0-8 in the Greco portion, but Dralu continued to battle and for that I want to show my appreciation.
- At Junior Duals, there is a fine line that the coaching staff must toe between wrestling to win duals, and getting backups matches. Coach Mellmer and his staff do a fantastic job, but the reality is that they will never please all 40 kids’ parents when it’s all said and done. The goal of Junior Duals, even moreso than Middle School Duals, Heartland Duals, or whatever other duals you can come up with, should be to finish as high as absolutely possible. Obviously that means wrestling the best wrestlers as much as possible. But, when a decision is made to have two wrestlers on the Blue squad (“A Team”), you are now in a position as a coach that you have to give that second wrestler two matches. That young man travelled way too far to watch eight duals from the bench. We must remember as spectators that the coaches have more information on each individual situation than we do, and I have full faith in our team North Dakota staff to manage each scenario given all the variables.