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By Jeff Kolpack, Published January 25 2009

College wrestling: Bears win on late pin, Johnson becomes unlikely hero against the Bison

North Dakota State was on its way to a dual wrestling win over Northern Colorado Saturday night. There were even the occasional claps of it’s-almost-over in the Bison Sports Arena from the home fans.

Then came shock-and-awe in a matter of a few seconds.

“I caught him on his back,” said UNC’s Ryan Johnson.

With his team trailing

16-12 and his match late in overtime, Johnson pinned Kenny Moenkedick to give the Bears a dramatic 18-16 Western Wrestling Conference victory. The officials’ slap of the mat stunned the BSA crowd, with the exception of the UNC team bench.

“All I could hear were my teammates,” Johnson said.

Ironically, it was Johnson, a senior with just a 12-15 overall record, who ended UNC’s dual win over the Bison last year.

“We had it won,” said NDSU head coach Bucky Maughan. “All Kenny had to do was not get pinned and we expected him to win. It was a weird outcome.”

Weird in that NDSU staged some last-second heroics to gain momentum heading into the last few matches.

It will be hard to beat the nailbiters at 141, 149 and 157 as the most exciting three straight matches at the BSA this season. All three came down to the final seconds.

“It was a great wrestling match,” Maughan said.

At 141, NDSU’s Gabriel Mooney rescued his match against highly regarded Kenny Hashimoto, getting a reversal with 15 seconds left to tie it at 6-6, then turning that into a two-point near fall in the last five seconds.

It was 15 seconds of high drama. UNC head coach Jack Maughan argued it was Hashimoto who should have gotten the last two points, not Mooney.

One match later, NDSU’s Ryan Adams overcame a 6-0 deficit in the second period. Then, with the match tied

7-7 and under 30 seconds left, he took a risk by cutting Mitchell Polkowske loose, but made it count getting a two-point takedown with 19 seconds left to win 9-8.

With the dual starting at 197 pounds, it gave NDSU a 10-9 lead.

And the Bison looked primed to stretch their lead at 157, until UNC’s Justin Gaethje registered a two-point reversal with 11 seconds left to beat Vince Salminen 9-8.

But wins by Tyler Johnson at 165 and Adam Aho at 174 rallied NDSU to a 16-12 lead, meaning UNC need at least a major decision at 184 to win the match.

It got more.

“With the team score the way it was, I asked coach if he wanted me to try something crazy,” Johnson said.

Johnson asked teammate Tony Mustari the same thing.

“He said don’t worry about the team score. He said just try to win your match. It turned into a great team win.”

125: Tony Mustari, UNC, dec. Trent Sprenkle, 7-0.

133: Brett Bahe, UNC, dec. Tyler Steinwand, 8-2.

141:Gabriel Mooney, NDSU, dec. Kenny Hashimoto, 8-6.

149: Ryan Adams, NDSU, dec. Mitchel Polkowske, 9-8.

157: Justin Gaethje, UNC, dec. Vince Salminen, 9-8.

165: Tyler Johnson, NDSU, dec. Tanner Weiks, 12-7.

174: Adam Aho, NDSU, dec. Brandon Kammerzell, 3-1.

184: Ryan Johnson, UNC, pinned Kenny Moenkedick, 7:40.

197: Drew Ross, NDSU, dec. Patrick Carey, 10-1.

HWT: Justin Tuell, UNC, dec. Tyler Hemmesch, 5-2.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com