Against tough competition, Jacks’ best deliver

Garrett Dorneman

Pickrel and Flynn lead SDSU’s big day at UNI amidst tough wrestlers. 

The SDSU wrestling team assembled one of its strongest showings of the young season at the UNI Open on Dec. 3 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The Jacks placed five of their grapplers in four different weight classes, including an individual title for redshirt junior Aaron Pickrel.

“I thought we performed very well considering the level of competition and the experience that our kids have,” said head coach Jason Liles. “To have a champion and another one of our kids in the finals was very encouraging.”

The level of competition was indeed exceedingly high at Saturday’s tournament, which featured participants from powerhouse programs Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska, but the Jackrabbits more than held their own.  The Jacks were once again guided by team leader Pickrel; the Watertown native posting a 4-0 mark for the day, concluding with a 3-0 victory over Cruse Aarhus of UNI in the final round of the 125-pound weight class. It was another strong showing for Pickerel who reached the semifinals at the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open and earned two decisions, including a major, at the Campbell triangular.

Another Jacks leader, senior Nick Flynn, nearly grabbed his squad a second individual championship on the day at 157 pounds. Flynn scored three point decisions and a technical fall to advance to the final round where he would come up short to UNI’s Dustin Bonin 12-6.

“He’s (Flynn) wrestled that kid (Bonin) before, he’s been a national qualifier and I think we closed the gap on him a little bit since last year,” Liles said of Flynn’s finals match. “I think he (Flynn) did a nice job in how he competed and he needs to just keep improving.”

Junior transfers Austin Lindsay and Tony Lisek had their strongest showings of the season thus far, both placing in a tournament for the first time in their Jackrabbit careers. Lindsey advanced to the semifinals at 165 pounds before being defeated by unattached Logan Molina of Iowa State. Lindsay would rebound in the wrestleback and advance to the third-place match where he then lost to Riley Branch of UNI and finish fourth. Lisek placed third at 184 pounds, defeating true freshman teammate Dylan Penka in a wrestleback semifinal before going on to take the third place match. Penka dropped the fifth-place tilt to take sixth.

Redshirt junior Dustin Walraven suffered an early exit with a first-round loss to Matt Ortega of Indiana in the 141-pound weight class and would later falter in the wrestlebacks, failing to place.

It was a disappointing day for Walraven following his two wins in the Campbell triangular and a fifth place finish at the Williamson/Daktronics Open.