Jackrabbit wrestlers edge Bison to retain Border Bell trophy
South Dakota State won six matches to take a 19-17 victory at a full Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse
FARGO — North Dakota State moved its Big 12 Conference wrestling match with South Dakota State to the cozy Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse to try and gain a better atmosphere. That worked.
Senior Jared Franek got the home crowd rolling with a technical fall victory at 157 pounds.
Redshirt freshman Michael Caliendo brought the house down with a pin at 165.
But the Jackrabbits had the final cheer, winning the final two matches to take a 19-17 victory, preventing the Bison from claiming a share of the Big 12 regular season dual crown before a standing-room crowd of 1,154 fans.
There were 1,154 reasons SDSU head coach Damion Hahn thinks the Bison should move all of their matches to the BBF.
“They need to wrestle here all the time,” Hahn said. “If you don’t know wrestling and you were in this arena tonight, you’re hooked, you’re a wrestling fan now. I mean that’s awesome for our sport. Now you tie in the rivalry, heck man, that’s great. It will continue to be a great rivalry and it’s what our sport needs.”
The Bison took a No. 15 ranking in the National Wrestling Coaches Association top 25 poll, the highest the school has been ranked. SDSU came in 17th. Both teams were missing a couple of starters because of injuries.
The Jacks had their way with the Bison last season, winning 32-3, and SDSU picked up where it left off. A major decision by Tanner Jordan at 125 pounds started the Jacks to a 10-0 lead after three matches, with a 5-3 overtime win by Derrick Cardinal over McGwire Midkiff at 133 pounds becoming a swing match.
“I think the matches all panned out about the way we all probably anticipated,” said NDSU head coach Roger Kish. “I think they stole one from us, maybe down low at 133 in a match we were probably favored in. But at the end of the day we need to get our guys better in a few positions.”
Said Hahn: “I thought 33 was big. I guess on paper you could say it was an upset. Derrick Cardinal has had an OK season but I thought he performed tonight when he needed it.”
That 10-0 deficit put the pressure for NDSU on its next three ranked wrestlers in No. 16 Kellyn March, No. 3 Jared Franek and No. 10 Michael Caliendo.
March held on for a 10-9 win over freshman Alex Martin at 149. Franek scored 14 points in his first period and eventually won by technical fall in the second period over Caleb Gross to pull the Bison within 10-8.
Caliendo struck quickly in the opening seconds of the third period, registering an escape and a hold redshirt freshman Connor Gaynor couldn’t escape. That gave the Bison a 14-10 advantage.
“They had their best two guys go out and pick up a tech and a pin,” Hahn said.
Caliendo called it a “personal” match stemming back to losing to Gaynor in high school in Illinois.
“He just kind of turned into me and I cradled him up,” Caliendo said. “Got him on his back.”
NDSU's DJ Parker gave the Bison a 17-13 lead with a narrow decision at 184. But SDSU had No. 9 Tanner Sloan at 197 and No. 14 A.J. Nevills at heavyweight. Both won by decision for the final margin.
With the victory, SDSU retained the Border Bell, the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of the regular season dual. The series that started in 2013 is now tied 5-5.
The Jackrabbits just moved into a new practice facility. The plan now, Hahn said, is to build something to house the Bell.
“Because that baby, I don’t want it to ever leave,” he said.
125: Jordan, SDSU, dec. Henningson, 9-0. 133: Cardinal, SDSU, dec. Midkiff, 5-3 (ot). 141: Carlson, SDSU, dec. Drexler, 8-4. 149: March, NDSU, dec. Martin, 10-9. 157: Franek, NDSU, tech. fall Gross, 21-6, 4:39. 165: Caliendo, NDSU, pinned Gaynor 5:30. 174: DeVos, SDSU, dec. Sax, 6-4. 184: Parker, NDSU, dec. King, 4-3. 197: Sloan, SDSU, dec. Pentz, 8-2. 285: Nevills, SDSU, dec. Mora, 8-3.