The 2013 Recruiting Class Now Gone
Though it didn’t have the accolades Bison fans would have hoped for, this spring marks the graduation of the best recruiting class in Bison D1 history; The Class of 2013. Intermat’s Josh Lowe ranked the class fourth in the nation in his team recruiting rankings for that year, while D1 College Wrestling and Flowresting had the Bison fourteenth and seventeenth respectively. The class boasted ten wrestlers, with four (Mitch Bengtson, Preston Lehmann, Tommy Petersen, and Clay Ream) ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight classes (Flo had Bengtson sixth). and four others (Tommy Walton, Kyle Gliva, Cole Sladek, and Grant Nehring) listed as honorable mentions). Mitch Friedman was also a player as this class unfolded over the course of five seasons. Ream, Bengtson, Gliva, and Friedman were the only four to finish this season on the Bison roster. Tommy Walton and Preston Lehmann wrestled this season for Minnesota State University Moorhead, while others left the team along the way for various other reasons. Clay Ream was a four time NCAA qualifier, and was seeded at the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons. It could certainly be argued he is one of the best wrestlers NDSU has had in the D1 era. A big reason for disappointing final results for this class had to do with growth. As incoming freshmen, the trio of Gliva-Bengtson-Ream could have been a force for three years at 133-141-149 respectively. Instead, Bengtson grew, Gliva really grew, and NDSU was stuck with three capable 149 pound wrestlers (with Friedman) five years later. Not even Ream’s bump to 157 was enough to separate this class enough to get everyone involved.
With this class now gone entirely, NDSU will look to get leadership and a much need shot in the arm from younger wrestlers. Only Ream and Gliva’s roster spots need to be replaced due to graduation, but I expect we will see upgrades to the lineup at as many as seven different weight classes. Cam Sykora, Andrew Fogarty, and Cordell Eaton are the three wrestlers returning that I feel are comfortably locked in to starting roles next season. Sykora and Fogarty are returning NCAA qualifiers, and Eaton was right on the cusp of qualifying himself. Though RS freshman Paul Bianchi had a strong first season in a Bison uniform, Central Michigan transfer and NCAA qualifier Brent Fleetwood will compete for the starting job at 125. Ideally, the Bison will try and get both wrestlers into the lineup, but that would mean Sykora moving from 133 to 141, and I have no idea what his size is entering the offseason. Sykora moving up would bring strength to what has been NDSU’s weakest weight class over the last two seasons. Should Sykora stay at 133, Taylor Nein, Nico Colunga, or Sam Hampton would compete for the role next year.
149 and 157 are the spots you are guaranteed to see new faces. Wisconsin native Jaden Van Maanen had an 11-7 redshirt season at 149, with tight losses to both Gliva and Bengtson in Open competition. Expect Van Maanen to man that spot while Nick Mergen holds down the 157 pound weight class. North Dakota wrestling fans curious about whether Coach Kish might wrestle West Fargo’s Jared Franek right out the gate should temper their hope. Kish has made it a point to keep blue chippers (Metz, Fogarty, Ream, etc.) under redshirt whether they are the best wrestler as freshmen on not.
The place NDSU really needs more competition is 174 and 184, and I think starters Charley Popp, Tyler McNutt, and Dylan Urbach, all who will be seniors next season, will get it from redshirts Jesse Shearer and Michael Otomo. Both Shearer and Otomo are listed at 174 pounds, but spreading the two out next year or the year after should give NDSU strength at both weights for the foreseeable future. Shearer was a respectable 12-5 in his redshirt campaign, while Otomo finished 7-5. Otomo defeated Shearer 9-6 in their lone head-to-head matchup of the season.
The last potential spot for turnover is at 285 pounds, where despite a strong season from Dan Stibral, I expect West Fargo three-time state champion Brandon Metz to seize the starting role with another summer of work. Metz had 16-4 redshirt campaign that included victories over impressive competition. With the large amount of turnover nationally at 285 this season, I expect Metz to be an immediate factor in the Big 12 and break into the top 20 nationally.