With the NDSU Green and Gold Intra-squad match in the rearview, we now know with some certainty what fans can expect next Sunday when the Bison host Northwestern in their season opener.
125: Brent Fleetwood (SR, Smyrna, DE)
Maybe the most intriguing match of the intra-squad dual happened at 125 between NCAA qualifiers Brent Fleetwood and Paul Bianchi. Bianchi was the starter for the Bison last season and finished a strong 24-15. The Two Rivers, WI, native was seventh at the Big 12 tournament and 0-2 at the NCAA Championships. Brent Fleetwood spent last season on redshirt after transferring from Central Michigan but gave Bison fans something to get excited about last spring when he finished sixth in the Freestyle US Open at 57 KG. Fleetwood scored a decisive 5-0 victory in the intrasquad meet Sunday, so the next question to be answered is how far Fleetwood can go this season. Pay attention to the Northwestern match, because Wildcat 125 Sebastian Rivera was an All American last season. Should Fleetwood give a strong performance next Sunday, Bison can expect that their 125 will be in the podium mix come March.
133: Cameron Sykora (JR, Wheaton, MN)
Sykora showed his intra-squad dominance Sunday when he defeated Nico Colunga by technical fall 15-0 just thirty seconds into the second period. Last season, Sykora was 23-12 with twelve technical falls and qualified for the NCAA tournament (1-2). Cam racks up points from the top position as well as anyone in the country, and he will win the Bison tight duals this season with his ability to score bonus. the X-factor this season is whether or not he can win tight matches against the country’s best 133 pounders. Last season at NCAA’s, Sykora lost in the tiebreakers to Lehigh All American Scotty Parker on the championship side of the bracket. On the backside, he was defeated by Penn State’s Corey Keener 9-7. The margin to making the podium for Sykora is razor thin, but he is capable of getting there this season.
141: Gavin Sutton (RSFR, Richmond, IL)
Have the Bison found an answer to their issues at 141 with Illinois native Gavin Sutton? It seems that may be the case. Sutton defeated Sawyer Degen 7-2 and with he win solidified himself at the top of the Bison depth chart. Sutton was 12-9 while wrestling at 149 pounds as a redshirt last season. Sutton will see #20 Yahya Thomas when Northwestern comes to town next Sunday. Thomas, also a redshirt, was seventh at the Midlands last year and should provide a strong early season marker for the young Bison.
149: Jaden Van Maanen (RSFR, LaCrosse, WI)
Like Sutton, Van Maanen is a redshirt freshman that the coaches at NDSU are very excited about. Van Maanen won the spot Sunday via injury default over another redshirt freshman, Austin Braun. He also scored a technical fall in his preliminary bout Sunday. Last season, Van Maanen was 11-7 jumping back and forth between 149 and 157. The Wisconsin product showed what he is capable of last spring at UWW Junior Nationals in Las Vegas when he finished sixth against a group of the best young wrestlers in the country. In that tournament, Van Maanen defeated Penn State redshirt Jared Verkleeren via technical fall.
157: Nick Knutson (SO, New Prague, MN)
With the graduation of 4X NCAA qualifier Clay Ream, North Dakota State’s strongest weight class over the last three years becomes its biggest question mark. Knutson, was 6-8 last season and 1-3 in duals as the Bison freshman “utility man”, jumping around between 165, 174, and even 184. Now in a starting role, Knutson will need to step up to the plate of Division I competition quickly. Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin will provide Knutson a stout early season test. Deakin won 32 matches at 149 last season and was one for the best freshmen in the nation. Deakin has bumped to 157 and Flowrestling has him ranked sixth in the first preseason poll.
165: Andrew Fogarty (JR, Jordan, MN)
The time is now for Andrew Fogarty, a Big 12 runner up and 2X NCAA qualifier, to jump from from consistent qualifier status to All American contender. The Scott West, MN product has finished 1-2 at the last two NCAA Championships. Fogarty has wrestled tight bouts with some of the nations best wrestlers throughout his career, but the jump to the next level will hinge on advancements from the neutral position. Ranked 12th in the country by Flowrestling, and with wins over two wrestlers currently ahead of him in Anthony Valencia and Big 12 foe Branson Ashworth, the podium should be the goal for Fogarty as a junior this season.
174: Lorenzo De La Riva (SO, Folsom, CA)
Lorenzo De La Riva solidified himself in the starting lineup with a win over West Fargo product Jesse Shearer in the Green and Gold match. The transfer from Cal State Bakersfield gave up the first takedown to Shearer, but responded with some great scrambling and top wrestling to finish the match 9-3. De La Riva is a former NCAA qualifier with the Roadrunners, and brings two full seasons of competition experience to a Bison team that has struggled filling 174 over the last few seasons. De La Riva will see a nice test next Sunday from #14 Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern.
184: Tyler McNutt (SR, St. Joseph, MO)
The gritty veteran McNutt passed his first test of the year with a 7-2 win over freshman challenger Michael Otomo. Now, McNutt will need to navigate his last season with an eye on the NCAA tournament. The Missouri native has a career record of 35-36, and was sixth in the Big 12 tournament two years ago. For a tournament run to happen, McNutt’s 0-6 dual record last season will have to improve so he can position himself nicely at the Big 12 tournament. Having watched McNutt compete over the last three seasons, no one in the Bison lineup works harder match to match. His senior leadership should also be a positive in a lineup filled with underclassmen.
197: Cordell Eaton (JR, Long Grove, IA)
Eaton is the guy I’m expecting to make the biggest results-based jump for the Bison this season after coming up short at the Big 12’s each of the last two years and not qualifying for NCAA’s. He won his Green/Gold scrimmage match in impressive fashion, pinning Cole Witzig in the first period. More importantly, he has wins over NCAA qualifiers and lost there one point matches at the Big 12 tournament that were the difference between qualifying for NCAAs and not. The talent is there for the Bison at 197. It is simply a matter of finishing the job when it matters most. Zack Chakonis of Northwestern, currently ranked nineteenth by Flowreslting at 197, is the type of wrestler Eaton will need to beat to make that NCAA run this season.
285: Brandon Metz (RSFR West Fargo, ND)
The Metzmode era is upon us, and Bison wrestling fans should be excited. Metz defeated last season’s starting 285 Dan Stibral 4-3 in the tiebreakers to take the spot. It was clear both wrestlers knew one another’s tendencies after competing in the room for the past year or longer, so I wouldn’t look at that match as an indicator for either wrestler moving forward. The positive is that NDSU has two NCAA qualifier caliber heavyweights in the room. Both should benefit as a result. Metz will have a huge home test next Sunday when Northwetern’s Conan Jennings show up at the SHAC. Jennings has been one of the most consistent heavyweights in the Big 10 and nearly reached All American status in each of the last two seasons. Expect fireworks from Metz in a match he has probably been envisioning for years.