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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 03 2012

Bison wrestling team hopes for individual success

FARGO – The NCAA West Regional in Cedar Falls, Iowa, today boils down to this for the North Dakota State wrestlers: It’s each man for himself to extend his season.

The team title is in all probability out of reach for NDSU and for the most part, that’s not what’s most important anyway. It’s all about getting as many wrestlers to the NCAA Division I wrestling championships as possible.

And for NDSU, a good day would mean advancing three. The most likely to make it is 157-pounder Steven Monk, who is ranked 11th in the NCAA Division I Coaches’ Panel and is in a weight class that will advance three wrestlers.

“He has high expectations for himself,” said NDSU head coach Roger Kish.

Monk is 6-4 this season against ranked wrestlers, with wins over guys who were rated 11th, 12th, 17th, 17th, 18th and 19th at the time. He’s 1-1 against Northern Iowa’s David Bonin, who enters the regional ranked 25th.

Monk’s losses were to wrestlers ranked first (Cornell’s Kyle Drake), eighth, 12th and 14th.

“He’s had some good matches with the best of them,” Kish said. “He’s definitely improved every day, and I think he’s getting more confident every day.”

Monk has 30 wins, a milestone reached last year by Vince Salminen, who had 37. Right behind Monk is 125-pound junior Trent Sprenkle, ranked No. 19 heading into today.

Sprenkle has No. 18 Michael Martinez and No. 29 Aaron Pickrel in his bracket. Sprenkle and Martinez are deadlocked at 2-2 in their careers, with a possible rubber match today.

“It will be a battle, a real battle,” Kish said. “It’s going to have to be a smart match on Trent’s end.”

Two qualifiers will make it from 125. Kish also expects 141-pounder Tyler Diamond, 184-pound senior Mac Stoll and heavyweight Evan Knutson to give a national berth a good shot.

Biggest problem for 32nd-ranked Stoll is the competition: He has No. 1 Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming and No. 6 Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa, with two qualifying for nationals.

“Everybody is where they need to be mentally,” Kish said. “The focus is there and it’s been good to see some guys come together this year.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia