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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 16 2010

Starting to get noticed: NDSU senior Salminen is nationally ranked, but he hopes for more

As rankings go, this one is a head scratcher. North Dakota State senior Vince Salminen has busted through the first two months of the wrestling season with hardly a dent, yet so far he has the value of a high-mileage used car in two NCAA Division I polls.

He’s 24th in the College Wrestling rankings and 26th in the WrestlingReport.com poll at 157 pounds, despite an 18-3 record against some tough opponents.

“I don’t know, it’s a ranking and it doesn’t really matter,” Salminen said. “I think I could be higher. I know I can beat guys that are ranked a lot higher than I am. It’s just how it is.”

In wrestling, however, rankings do matter in a couple of ways. The higher the ranking, the better the seed at various tournaments across the country, like the Reno Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nev., where NDSU will be competing this weekend. And it could affect the seeding for the NCAA regional in March.

NDSU head coach Bucky Maughan said he has no idea who does the ratings. He said a lot of it is based off of where a wrestler placed last year. A returning All-American, for instance, would practically have to get kicked off the team for a low rating.

Two weeks ago, Salminen was named the Western Wrestling Conference Wrestler of the Week after knocking off opponents from No. 9-ranked Central Michigan, No. 3 Minnesota and Appalachian State. He pinned Zach Cline of CMU to lead NDSU to the 24-17 upset win in the Northern Quad in Rochester, Minn.

“It felt good to go out and wrestle tough against a top-ranked team,” Salminen said. “They underestimated us. Last year we beat Boise State and this year Central Michigan. In the next couple years, I see this program ranked in the top 25.”

Salminen also owns wins over wrestlers from Air Force, Duke, San Francisco State and Michigan. Losses were to Albert White of Oklahoma State, No. 2 Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State and No. 20 D.J. Meagher of Cornell.

“Vince is off to a very good start,” Maughan said. “He’s flirting with being ranked higher and I don’t know why he’s not.”

His 18 wins are just four shy from his 22-10 record of last season, which ended with a West Regional title and a berth to the NCAA Division I Championships. Certainly, that’s the goal this year.

“I feel like I’m more ready this year than I have been in the past,” Salminen said. “More mature, senior year, this is it. I just have to go out and get it done.”

NDSU will take six days off after the Reno tournament, and then get ready for the dual season starting with the North Carolina State Duals. The home dual opener is Jan. 14 against Northern Iowa.

“Older, wiser, this is it,” Salminen said. “Eighteen years of wrestling, which is most of my life, and it’s coming down to this. It’s kind of surreal. We have to keep working hard, because it’s a grind to the end.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. 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