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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 14 2009

College wrestling: Bison focused on return to national scene

The Division I reclassification has been done for a while now for the North Dakota State wrestling program. Now the Bison want to be part of the national scene.

It starts in the mind, said head coach Bucky Maughan, and NDSU is hoping to make strides in that area this year. Enter new assistant coach Roger Kish, who was hired over the summer from the University of Minnesota, where he did just that.

He was a two-time All-American and two-time NCAA runner-up and his mission heading into today’s Bison Open at the Bison Sports Arena is simple: get the wrestlers to train harder.

“He wants us to outwork everybody,” said junior Vince Salminen, “and keep moving forward and keep the pressure on.”

Salminen gave an example of his toughness over the summer. While back home in Montana, he got in an ultimate fighting ring and gave that sport a shot.

“I knocked the kid out,” Salminen said.

The Bison wrestlers found themselves on the other end of the knock-out punch so to speak too many times last year. Their dual record was 5-10-1 and more glaring, they did not qualify anybody for the Division I Wrestling Championships.

Back this year is senior Ryan Adams, a two-time national qualifier who will move down to 141 pounds from 149. Sophomore

125-pounder Justin Solberg and sophomore

165-pounder Tyler Johnson each finished third at the NCAA West Regional last year.

The only true freshman in the lineup will be heavyweight Joe Arthur, which is a break from last year when five true freshmen saw the lineup.

“I was disappointed in some of the kids’ mental toughness but then again, we had five true freshmen,” Maughan said. “Training-wise, we’re working harder.”

That includes two-a-day practices – one at 6 a.m. and the other at the usual late afternoon slot. Last week in the Daktronics Open in Brookings, S.D., Maughan thought he had the best-conditioned wrestlers.

So, for the new assistant coach, so far, so good.

“There’s a huge difference in Division I as far as style and I think you need preparation both mentally and physically to cope with that,” Kish said. “We’ve made huge strides.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546