Wrestling with struggles

Shane Koob

Shane KoobSportswriter

If ever there was a time to use the word rebuilding, you might not find a better case than the SDSU wrestling team.

Toss in some injuries along with the decision to redshirt seven incoming freshmen this year, and that equals a pretty tough season to be a head coach.

In his 18th year at that position, Jason Liles knew coming in to the season that things might get rough.

“We’re trying to build for the future and part of that is taking it on the chin this year,” Liles said when asked about the struggles this season.

Injuries have played a very crucial role in how the season has gone. Junior David Michaud (8-6 overall, 2-2 in WWC) has seen limited action due to various ailments throughout the year. Sophomore Aaron Pickrel (24-8, 2-1) has also battled injuries this year, most recently on Feb. 11, when he sat out the NDSU duel.

“We had guys like Scott Elliot, who just got back for three matches and then found out he had a season ending neck injury” Liles said.

Liles also talked about how, because of injuries, they have had to move wrestlers up as much as two or three weight classes. He went on to say that can lead to “guys being manhandled.”

Manhandled indeed. The Jacks schedule has not helped them out. In the 12 losses this season, SDSU has been outscored 442-88. That includes losses to five ranked teams. The only victory came against UW-Whitewater, a Division III school, and Division II Northern State tied the Jacks at Frost Arena back in December. Plain and simple, the Jacks have been outmanned and outmatched most of the season.

When teams struggle like SDSU has this season, two questions always arise: How is team morale and what does the future hold? Senior Kevin Kelly and Michaud stand out as leaders on the team and have their own beliefs.

“Every week is a new week. We just try to keep the morale high. Come in every day and work hard and try to get the guys to believe they can win” Michaud said.

That includes trustworthiness that current struggles will break away to a better future – paying their dues for retribution down the line.

“I think the future looks good. The kids that came here are buying into the program. It’s a lot of work, a lot of commitment, and I think these guys are committed…that’s what Liles wants” Kelly said.

It is always tough to tell how a college athlete will pan out, but from all accounts, the future is going to be a bright one for SDSU. With decent recruiting classes the past two years, the Jacks are hoping this young batch can take them to the next step in Division I wrestling.

Adding to the promise of the future, SDSU hopes to add a full-time assistant coach this offseason.

“Everybody in our conference has two full-time assistants. We’re fighting to get one … and that’s a step in the right direction,” Liles said.

Liles also talked about the sacrifices his current assistants have made, making note of the little pay they receive due to only being part-time and the hours put in the wrestling room.

“We had a very good recruiting class, and we thought the best option (for the future) was to redshirt everybody, and just do the best we could this year” Liles said.

The Jacks have one more conference match left, as they face Utah Valley at Frost Arena this Friday at 7 p.m. Then it will be on to the NCAA West Regionals in Colorado Springs, Colo. on March 5.

#1.1999909:3491025058.png:ndsu-wrestling-GALLAGHER-2.png:NDSU?s Kenny Moenkedick executes a hold on Joe Rasmussen at 184 pounds in the Bison?s 43-7 victory over SDSU on Feb. 11. Moenkedick defeated Rasmussen by technical fall with a 20-5 score at Frost Arena.:Collegian Photo by Robby Gallagher