Wrestler makes history

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

Redshirt freshman Ryan Meyer, accomplished something that had never been done before at SDSU – he qualified for a Division-I national tournament since the move to Division I.

Meyer finished second in the 174-pound weight class and was selected as a wild card to compete in the national tournament.

“Overall, I thought we wrestled well,” Head Wrestling Coach Jason Liles said.

In addition to Meyer qualifying for the national tournament, senior Nate Althoff, 165-pound class, finished third and was chosen as a second alternate for the NCAA tournament. Senior Andy Everson, 157-pound class, and junior Jason Stripling, heavyweight, each took second place in their respective weight classes, but failed to make it to the national tournament.

Meyer will wrestle at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., beginning on March 15. The first round of competition begins at 11 a.m.

Liles said he thought all four wrestlers had an opportunity to qualify for nationals.

“We really figured that, best case scenario, if we could three out of the four,” Liles said. “And we had chances to get all four.”

Although Meyer was the only wrestler to move on, the other three wrestlers met or exceeded their seeds. Everson was seeded second, Stripling was seeded third and Althoff was seeded fourth.

With an early opportunity to compete at the national championship, Liles said having a qualifier to the national tournament was a “necessity” for the team.

“When you have that opportunity (to qualify), you gotta have qualifiers,” he said.

Securing the first D-I national qualifier was something the wrestling team had talked about before the tournament and was something the team wanted to do.

“We’ve been talking about that for a couple of years, knowing that we would have a chance and it was a huge factor,” Liles said. “To have the first Division-I qualifier in the history of our school since the transition, it’s a big thing. I’m sure Ryan doesn’t quite understand that right now, but later on (he will). It’s really neat having a young kid, he’s a redshirt freshman, who’s going to have three more years in the program, and he’s from South Dakota, which I think is another huge factor. You only get one shot at making history and he got it done and I’ve very excited and pleased that it was the sport of wrestling.”

SDSU’s first D-I qualifier almost didn’t have the opportunity to wrestle. Liles said the team did not leave Brookings until 5:45 p.m. on March 2 and did not arrive in Cedar Falls, Iowa until 3 a.m. the following morning.

“We got in … over some very bad roads. We were very lucky we even had an opportunity to get there,” Liles said.

The tricky traveling conditions could have been a huge hindrance to the wrestlers, but they were not.

“In retrospect, I think it had to have some effect on them, but I think our guys did a tremendous job of not allowing it to affect them as severely as it could have,” Liles said.

After not having a postseason tournament the past few seasons, the poor road conditions almost cost the seniors their long-awaited shot at the postseason.

“I think it meant a lot to them. It takes a lot to stick around when there’s no postseason … so it says a lot for them and I think it meant a great deal to them to have an opportunity to qualify,” Liles said.

#1.883668:1104762052.jpg:Gottschalk_04.tm.jpg:SDSU’s Travis Gottschalk, right, wrestles NDSU’s Jacob Bryce, in the final regular season match on Feb. 18.:Troy Miller