Young Jackrabbits look to improve in Hahn’s second season

Jordon Shoenrock, Sports Reporter

After taking last year to rebuild, excitement surrounds the South Dakota State wrestling team as it heads into year two under coach Damion Hahn.

“I don’t know anyone any more excited than our guys,” Hahn said. “They are pumped about (how) their training and off-seasons went. They are ready to go. We feel this team can…raise the level of South Dakota State wrestling. But it takes time and these guys have accepted the challenge.”

This year’s schedule will be a little different as some changes were made to help the wrestlers.

The team took a trip Nov. 9 to Fargo, North Dakota, to compete in the Bison Open in the first action of the season. Since it is an open competition, all healthy wrestlers were able to compete including redshirts and non-varsity members.

Hahn and his staff will use this as a final outlook on who will make the starting line up for the dual season. Duals begin Nov. 15 against Binghamton University (New York) at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

The Jackrabbits will then make their first home appearance of the season in the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open at 9 a.m. Nov. 17, inside the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Just like the Bison Open, all healthy wrestlers may compete.

The team will then head to Utah to start the Big 12 conference season again Utah Valley before heading to Las Vegas to compete in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 6-7. This will be the last tournament they will compete in before Big 12 Conference Tournament.

On the home dual slate for the Jacks is Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Fresno State, Stanford and North Dakota State.

While away from Frost Arena this season, SDSU will compete in the South Beach Duals tournament Dec. 29-30 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That is followed by duals at Northern Iowa, Oklahoma State, Arkansas-Little Rock, West Virginia and Ohio.

The Big 12 Wrestling Championships will take place March 7-8 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Less than two weeks later, Minneapolis will host the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Last year, the roster ran thin. This year, however, there are more kids fighting for a varsity spot currently than there was on the whole team last year.

Representing the Jacks at 125 pounds to open the season will be senior Kahlen Morris. Another possible option at 125 pounds is junior Danny Vega, who transferred in last January. He will have to sit out of all non-open competitions at least until fall semester grades are posted.

Redshirt freshman Zach Price and sophomore Rylee Molitor will be the go-to guys at 133. Price was an All-American this summer in freestyle at the U23 tournament in Ohio. 

The Jacks are also young at 141 pounds, with the top wrestlers being redshirt freshman Clay Carlson and sophomore Aric Williams.

Senior Henry Pohlmeyer will return as the 149-pounder. Pohlmeyer was the only national qualifier for the Jackrabbits last year and comes into the season ranked 20th in the FloWrestling preseason rankings.

“Henry is coming back looking strong, looking solid and keeping his eyes set on the prize and what’s in front of him,” Hahn said.

At 157 pounds, fans will see junior Colten Carlson or senior Laken Cook.

There are three athletes competing for the spot at the 165-pound weight class — junior Garrett Jordan, freshman Tanner Cook and redshirt freshman Kenny O’Neil.

Senior Martin Mueller will be cutting down to 174. Mueller competed at 197 pounds last year and is cutting weight to make the starting line up as a senior. 

Senior Zach Carlson will represent the Jacks at 184 pounds again this year.

At 197 is Tanner Sloan. The redshirt freshman represented Team USA this summer in international freestyle competition in the junior division, winning the 97-kilogram class. Sloan is ranked fifth by FloWrestling in their preseason rankings. 

SDSU has three athletes battling for the 285-pound spot also — junior Blake Wolters, sophomore Alex Aarsvold and redshirt freshman Bowen McConville.

Even though the Jacks struggled last season and still have young wrestlers at several weights, Hahn isn’t compromising any goals.

“These guys set the bar pretty high,” Hahn said. “When they go out there, we are looking to score points, win duals, qualify guys for the NCAA tournament and get All-Americans and national champions.”