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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 05 2009

College wrestling: Aho, Mooney have put in their time

By the end of the month, a species of North Dakota State wrestler will officially become extinct. Seniors Adam Aho and Gabriel Mooney were the last to go through a season without a postseason tournament.

They were freshmen when the Bison were in their second and final year of wrestling ineligibility. The Division I reclassification rendered the school ineligible for post-season competition with the exception of wrestling and volleyball, which were granted an exemption by the NCAA because they are Olympic sports.

“If I had to do that for four years, I don’t know that I would have stuck around,” Aho said. “What we do is not exactly easy.”

It won’t be easy on Saturday at the West Region tournament in Greeley, Colo. It doubles as the Western Wrestling Conference tourney, but the big prize is earning a spot in the Division I Wrestling Championships later this month in St. Louis.

It all comes down to one day at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

“We’re both seniors, we’re still here and both of us have put in a lot of time,” Mooney said.

For the longest time, they were rivals. Aho’s Frazee team beat Mooney’s Greenbush-Middle River team every year in the Minnesota Class 1A, Section 8A finals.

“Huge rivals,” Aho said. “But we became great friends.”

They were roommates their first three years at NDSU. For both of their seasons to continue, both will have to have outstanding performances on Saturday – Mooney at 141 pounds and Aho at 174.

“If I wrestle OK or good, that’s not going to cut it,” Mooney said. “I have to have a great tournament, the best of my career.”

A career that started with nothing to wrestle for at the end of the season. In retrospect, both said the fact they were young and freshmen took away some of the no-postseason sting.

“It was different,” Aho said. “Everything you did during the year – you couldn’t prove it at the end of the year. We’re the last two on our team to go through that.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia