Wrestlers may become first D-I national qualifying athletes

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

History can be made on the mat on March 3. In SDSU’s 125-plus years in existence, the school has never had a Division-I national qualifier in any sport. The SDSU wrestling team can change that when the team travels to the University of Northern Iowa to wrestle in the NCAA Division I West Regional Qualifier.

The NCAA allowed SDSU to have two sports be eligible for post-season play this season, two years earlier than all other sports. The wrestling team, as well as with the volleyball team, was granted two extra years of eligibility. SDSU’s volleyball team was unable to advance to the national tournament stage, so the “weight” falls on the wrestling team.

If any Jackrabbit wrestler does well enough at UNI, he will advance to the D-I National Championships in Auburn Hills, Mich., March 15-17.

“It is exciting for the opportunity and the chance to and have an individual make history,” Head Coach Jason Liles said.

Liles is not only happy about the chance to have a student-athlete qualify for the NCAA tournament, but he indicated that this makes it easier to recruit.

“Good wrestlers want a chance (to compete at nationals),” he said.

Liles can now, and forever more, promise that opportunity to a prospective athlete.

Although he is pleased with his young team, Liles knows it will be very challenging for an individual to qualify. He identified three weight classes and four athletes, that have the best chance to qualify.

Liles said redshirt freshman Ryan Meyer and senior Nate Althoff are “game” time decisions in the 165-pound weight class. Meyer accumulated 22 wins during the season, the most on the team, and lost only five matches. Althoff did not wrestle as frequently as Meyer and completed a 9-4 record throughout the year.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Sorenson will wrestle at 184-pounds for the Jacks. He went 19-6 on the year.

Junior Jason Stripling will wrestle for SDSU at the heavyweight weight class. Stripling secured 20 victories on the season, compared to only five losses. He was one of two Jackrabbit wrestlers to win 20 matches during the year.

Perhaps one of them will be able to say, “I was the first.”