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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 31 2013

LaValle comes full circle in return to F-M with Bison wrestling

FARGO – The beginning of the sport as Justin LaValle knows it started in third grade when he got to wrestle at the North Dakota State practice room. It’s been quite the world tour, but the senior is back where he started.

He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

LaValle’s final college wrestling season begins tonight when the 24th-ranked Bison host No. 17 University of Missouri at the Bison Sports Arena. The Old Dominion transfer will start at 141 pounds on a team that has some promise.

“I was going to move back here regardless after I graduated, so I thought I might as well end my career where I started,” LaValle said.

He grew up in Moorhead until his sophomore year of high school. He transferred to Minnesota wrestling power Apply Valley for his last two years, a move that current Bison teammate Tyler Lehmann did for one of those years. LaValle won two Minnesota state titles at Apple Valley.

Both were on the Junior Pan American team that competed in Brazil. When LaValle decided to transfer, he talked with Lehmann while also considering the University of Nebraska.

“Me and Tyler have wrestled together since we were 8 years old,” LaValle said.

LaValle’s best season at Old Dominion was 2011-12 when he was a Colonial Athletic Association runner-up and a qualifier for the NCAA Championships. His three-year record was 62-38.

But he said he grew steadily unhappy, accentuated by a couple of assistant coaches left the program.

“It wasn’t the same as when I got there,” he said. “Everyone always brings up why did you transfer back, all the negatives. I’m just going to take all the positives out of it. I thanked them for where I’m at now. We just started going different ways.”

The separation was amicable. ODU gave him his release so he would be immediately eligible rather than sit out a season. NCAA rules allow wrestling to have a one-time transfer exception if a release is granted.

“He comes in a season veteran,” said NDSU head coach Roger Kish. “He’s a great asset and a leader for our guys.”

LaValle comes in ranked 18th by Intermat and 20th by Amateur Wrestling News at 141 pounds. Bison senior Steven Monk has the top billing ranked third at 165 by Intermat.

LaValle is one of the few guys on the Bison team who remembers the program when it was Division II. He currently lives with his grandparents in West Fargo.

Every week this season will be like old home week.

“I was missing home,” he said. “I didn’t get to come back here as much as I wanted to.”

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