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Eric Peterson, Published March 18 2014

Monk hopes for his place in Bison wrestling history

Fargo - The image – about one year old – shows an emotional Trent Sprenkle raising his hands as the former North Dakota State wrestler made history.

In the background, you can see Steven Monk with a smile on his face after he watched his teammate become the first Bison to earn All-America honors in the program’s NCAA Division I era.

“I was right in the front row in the stands,” said Monk, now a senior. “It was exciting and a big stepping stone for our program.”

Monk hopes to add to that program history in Oklahoma City, the site of this year’s NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which start Thursday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“It’s the last tournament of my life, so I’ve just got to give it my all,” said Monk, who has been one win short of earning All-America status the past two seasons.

“I have to wrestle like I’ve never wrestled before and put together the best three days of my life.”

Monk hopes his career follows the same path as Sprenkle, who nearly made All-America status in the two seasons prior to his senior campaign. Sprenkle placed fifth at 125 pounds last season in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Trent is a huge motivator,” said Monk, who has a 31-1 record this season. “He was in my shoes last year.”

Monk is seeded No. 4 at 165 pounds heading into the NCAAs. He’s slated to wrestle unseeded Casey Kent (19-7) from Penn in the opening round. Monk, from Wausau, Wis., is second on the career wins list at NDSU with 129.

“For him this is a big deal and this is his last chance … to go out and do what he’s wanted to do his whole life,” NDSU head coach Roger Kish said.

Monk said he started to wrestle in kindergarten. Conner Monk is Steven’s younger brother. Conner said Steven has had a strong drive to succeed from an early age.

“He had that mentality of a champion,” said Conner, who wrestles at Minnesota State Moorhead and made the Division II tournament this season.

“He always wanted to strive to be the best.”

NDSU junior 285-pounder Evan Knutson – who also qualified for Division I nationals – wrestled in high school with Steven.

The two have wrestled together since grade school.

“He’s very talented in wrestling but very humble about it,” Knutson said. “It is pretty inspiring to me, too.”

Monk said NDSU is the only Division I program that recruited him coming of high school. Now, he hopes to become NDSU’s second All-American in the school’s D-I era.

Before Sprenkle, NDSU had wrestlers that earned D-I All-America status when the program was in Division II. D-II wrestlers could qualify for the D-I tournament until the early 1990s.

Monk is proud of how the team has improved since his freshman season. NDSU is ranked in the Top 25 in two national polls.

“It shows what we are doing right now is working, and I think we’re only going to get better,” Monk said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com