Wrestling team starts season while new conference waits

Will Oliver

Will Oliver

The SDSU wrestling team enters the season in uncharted waters as a member of no conference-yet.

In his twelfth season at State, Head Coach Jason Liles said a coaches’ agreement exists between SDSU, University of Wyoming, North Dakota State University, Air Force, University of Northern Colorado, Utah Valley State, Northern Iowa, Fresno State and Eastern Illinois. The schools will recognize a conference dual meet champion, wrestler of the week and of the year, coach of the year and other awards among the participating schools.

“It has to progress to presidential approval to be formalized (as a conference),” said Liles. He hopes this occurs this year. Establishing a conference, he said, will facilitate recruiting.

The Jacks face tough, new competition in the likes of Air Force, Wyoming and Northern Iowa – teams that consistently finish in the top 15 in the nation. Despite the presence of well-established programs on the Jacks’ schedule, Liles’ expectations remain high.

“Expectations would be to be competitive, have a winning record overall and within conference … Our numbers are still down a little bit; we’re improving those,” he said.

The Jacks welcome 10 new freshman faces to the team. Three are expected to wrestle immediately, including 125-pound Alan Marvin from Adrian, Mich.; 157-pound Justin Retallic from Atlantic, Iowa; and 157-pound Matt Mower from Ipswich.

Liles said he hopes to red-shirt many of the remaining freshmen, utilizing them only when injury necessitates it. He said it is nice to have upperclassmen around to guide the newcomers during the season.

“It’s always great to have kids around with some experience,” he said.

Among the returners is seasoned-veteran senior Cody Nehl from Watauga. Nehl, a 197-pounder majoring in agricultural systems technology, hopes to be a positive example for his young team.

“We have some real good kids, but a young team,” Nehl said. “We’ll get better for the future.”

The Jacks kick their season off with their annual Blue and Yellow Meet at Frost Arena Oct. 29. An inner-squad competition, the Blue and Yellow Meet will determine starting positions in some weight categories.

“Only a few weights will have challenges … we’ll also have the young guys challenge to see where the younger and older guys are at,” Liles said.

It will be treated like any other meet, he said. “We take it seriously.”

One weight class that needs little determining is that held by junior Nathan Althoff. The two-time letter winner from Watertown boasted a record of 25-6 last year, and the Jacks will look to him for the same this year.

In his 11-year tenure at State, Liles has led the Jacks to nine top-five finishes, elevating the State wrestling program to perhaps the most successful and accredited sports program at SDSU. However, the same accomplishments may not come immediately in State’s newfound Division-I status.

“It’s a different level of competition, obviously,” Liles said. “We expect over time to have a program in the top 20.”

State’s first competition comes on Nov. 5 at the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open at Frost Arena..