By Jason Bryant
Editor, Amateur Wrestling News
Starting the season with a hot dog at the Bison
A few years back while I was still at Wrestling 411, I made a trip to Fargo in November for the Bison Open. Then-Minnesota assistant Joe Russell walked over to me, hot dog in hand and said, “season doesn’t start until you have a hot dog at the Bison.”
While that may or may not be true to some wrestling fans, Minnesota makes the four-hour trek across the state to use the tournament as a primer for the season as well as to get an idea of how to juggle the Gopher lineup.
With 10 weights placing six wrestlers apiece, there are 60 total placement spots in the tournament. Minnesota came away with 24 of them — good for 40 percent.
The coaching staff wasn’t joking when it said the program had a boatload of wrestlers competing for the starting spot at 157 pounds. The Gophers owned 157 pounds, capturing all six placement spots at 157 pounds.
Seth Lange, who got the start and the win against Hofstra on Friday night, was second, falling to teammate Brad Dolezal. Pat Smith was third, defeating Brandon Kingsley, while Steve Keogh finished fifth, taking a medical forfeit over teammate Wesley Richard.
Tom Giaimo, who wrestled and won for the Gophers on Friday at 149 pounds in the absence of NCAA runner-up Dylan Ness, finished fourth at 149 pounds.
There were some championship matches of note, including Division I heavyweight champion Tony Nelson edging two-time Division II heavyweight champion Matt Meuleners of Northern State 3-2.
Speaking of Joe Russell
Last year, Joe Russell’s inaugural season at the helm of the George Mason University wrestling program was a lesson in humility. After being part of Minnesota’s national championship program for seemingly forever, Russell’s first head coaching job found him doing more hands-on with a wrestling program than he imagined.
Then there was the whole competition side of things.
Last year, the Patriots were blanked by Appalachian State 42-0 in Fairfax. On Sunday, George Mason beat Appalachian State 23-22 on criteria. Minnesota transfer Jake Kettler’s fall at heavyweight tied the score at 22. Mason scored more match points and was awarded the victory.
Update: And here we go … again. As of Monday morning (this was originally posted as the clock struck midnight), the result has been changed to award Appalachian State the victory by criteria. So Russell’s team doesn’t get the win, but in one season, the Patriots still closed the dual gap on the Mountaineers by 42 points. Not counting the tie-breaking criteria point.
And more turnarounds
Last year, South Dakota State went to Indiana and lost to the Hoosiers 30-8. On Saturday, coach Chris Bono’s team beat Indiana 19-18. Brandon Ballard’s major decision at 197 pounds over Tarek Alaruri gave the Jackrabbits a seven-point advantage and enough of a spread to clinch the dual.
Ames not kind to Illini
A trip to Ames, Iowa wasn’t all fun and games for Illinois. While B.J. Futrell picked up the championship at 141 pounds, two other Illini took losses to wrestlers outside of Division I.
Heavyweight Pat Walker fell in the finals to NAIA champion Eric Thompson of Grand View, while Tony Dallago was upended in the semifinals to St. Cloud State’s Shamus O’Grady, a three-time Division II All-American who finished fourth at 174 pounds last year.
Twitter blew up midway through Saturday with the news Nebraska redshirt freshman Micah Barnes had upset Jordan Blanton at the Cyclone Open. Barnes did just that, beating Blanton 6-5.
Blanton wouldn’t bag it, he wrestled six straight matches back, picking up a major decision, four falls and a technical fall to take third. The tech — against Barnes 16-0.
Remember folks, it’s only November.
Getting to the Point
Two Wisconsin Badgers had notable performances at the Pointer Open hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Jesse Thielke, a Junior World Greco-Roman bronze medalist, won the tournament at 133 pounds, picking up two tech falls and a 19-second fall in the finals. Thielke will be redshirting this season.
Isaac Jordan knocked off reigning Division III champion Nazar Kulchytskyy of UW-Oshkosh 5-2 at 165 pounds.
Shocker of the week
While there were several results that raised eyebrows at the Binghamton Open on Sunday, the biggest in my estimation was Binghamton’s Joe Bonaldi coming away with the championship at 141 pounds.
The sophomore from New York went 5-0 with a win over All-American Mike Nevinger en route to the championship.
Bonaldi came in to the tournament 0-1, losing to Lehigh’s Anthony Salupo in the Bearcats’ 23-16 loss at Lehigh earlier in the week. That’s not what was stunning, but Bonaldi was 16-17 last year and lost to Nevinger twice — once by technical fall and another by major decision.
Score (negative) one for the ol’ alma mater
Well, Saturday was a good day and a bad day for the ol’ alma mater. ODU football beat rival William & Mary, but it wasn’t a stellar outing for the wrestling program as they dropped duals to Purdue and Missouri. The Monarchs will likely fall out of the Top 25 when the votes come in on Tuesday, but I’ve taken a bit of heat via Facebook and Twitter after Missouri beat ODU 35-(-1). Yes, that’s a negative one. When you get shut out, and then lose a team point, the only way the numerals can go is down.
While watching the football game and listening to the AWN Live Audio, John Nicholson lost a team point after what could be described as a tantrum after losing 4-1 to Kyle Bradley of Missouri. Not exactly something I want to focus on as an alum, but I guess it was a big deal for Missouri’s Sports Information Office, who made light of the deducted team point calling it a historic moment for Mizzou. More like an infamous one for ODU.
Fortunate to have Fortune
Oregon native Tyrell Fortune was one of the top-ranked heavyweights in the nation coming out of high school. On Saturday, Fortune won his second open tournament of the year for Division II Grand Canyon University. Fortune previously won the Cowboy Open at Wyoming and on Saturday at the Roadrunner Open in California, he went 5-0 to win the title at heavyweight.
Fortune beat Stanford’s Dan Scherer 6-2 in the finals. He’s clearly one to watch in trying to stop two-time Division II champion Matt Meuleners of Northern State from winning a third title.
More from the Roadrunner
Navy’s Oscar Huntley had a solid run at the NCAA championships last year, reaching the Round of 12. He started the preseason ranked seventh. His biggest problem this season won’t be trying to reach the podium, but trying to win the spot.
Huntley lost in the intrasquad to freshman Matt Miller, then lost to Miller at the Eastern Michigan Open and again to Miller at the Roadrunner Open.
I guess it’s a good problem to have for Navy coach Bruce Burnett. Miller won both tournaments and is 9-0 on the season.
Dixie State College has been teetering on the brink of becoming a Division II wrestling program. As of now, Dixie State, located in St. George, Utah, is still competing in the NCWA, but there was one notable result from this weekend’s Colorado Open at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo.
Jalen Weaver, a 197-pounder from St. George, picked up four falls en route to a fifth-place finish at the weight. While a fifth-place finish isn’t going to make headlines nationwide, we acknowledge Weaver’s four falls against scholarship-level competition as notable.