Sloan shines for SDSU wrestling

Jordon Shoenrock, Sports Reporter

Hard-working, crafty, accountable and simple.

These are just a few of the words coaches use to describe Tanner Sloan.

The redshirt freshman wrestler grew up raising cattle, chickens and sheep on a farm near Alburnett, Iowa, a small town of about 700 people less than an hour north of Iowa City. In the third grade, he joined the 4-H Club. During his time in the club, he showed cattle and sheep through high school. This helped instill the hard work ethic Jackrabbit fans get to witness today, but the wrestling chapter of Sloan’s story started years before.

At the age of 4, Sloan’s dad signed him up for wrestling. The first year didn’t go the best, as Sloan summed it up by saying he “was kind of a sissy about it.”

But the following year it was like a switch flipped. The Sloan family started traveling more and the results started to come.

By the time Sloan was a fourth-grader, he was starting to get burnt out, so his family slowed down the wrestling lifestyle. He continued to practice but didn’t compete as much.

When seventh and eighth grade rolled around, wrestling once again became a priority. Sloan started to attend practice with the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids-based Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club, while also running track and playing football.

As high school started, Sloan gave up track to focus on football and wrestling. Sloan placed fifth in the Iowa state tournament at 138 pounds his freshman year. That’s when he entered his first freestyle tournament, a local tournament he won.

Sloan went on to be a four-time state placer, which included two individual state titles representing Alburnett High School in folkstyle.

As Sloan’s high school career started to wind down, he had a tough decision to make: play football or wrestle in college.

But when the football season ended and wrestling started up, he realized what he wanted to do.

“I have done it my whole life, so it would feel weird if I wasn’t wrestling anymore,” Sloan said.

Sloan decided to come to South Dakota State after being overlooked by many Division I schools.

He’s majoring in animal science but isn’t completely sure what might come next. He claims what he wants to do when he graduates changes about every other week between the reproduction and marketing sides of livestock.

Sloan started turning heads right away, but it wasn’t until he competed in the Midlands Championships at the end of 2018 that he would really burst onto the national stage.

That weekend, Sloan defeated two athletes that went on to be All-Americans and dropped a decision to another All-American, Patrick Brucki of Princeton, in the finals. Sloan finished his redshirt season with a 24-2 record in open tournaments.

“Wrestling is a sport that he loves very much, but he doesn’t make it out to be bigger than it is,” said assistant coach Cody Caldwell.

As spring rolled around, folkstyle competition ended and freestyle picked up with the Jackrabbit Wrestling Club. Sloan bought into the program and it paid off.

The JWC took a group of wrestlers, Sloan among them, to Las Vegas for the U.S. Open Wrestling Championships. The 197-pounder impressed again, placing second and qualifying for the Junior World Team Trials.

Sloan headed back to Brookings hungry to get better and win the World Team Trials mini-tournament to get another shot at Sam Schuyler, the University of Buffalo wrestler that bested him in Las Vegas.

He made good on the second opportunity.

Not only did Sloan win the mini-tournament, he swept a best two-out-of-three series against Schuyler, making him the 97-kilogram representative for the United States at the Junior World Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.

Before Sloan headed to Estonia, he got the chance to compete at the United World Wrestling Junior Pan-American Championships in Guatemala, where he won gold in the 97-kilogram weight class.

However, Sloan’s ensuing trip to Estonia didn’t produce the same results. After a tough first-round draw, Sloan dropped his first match to Feyzullah Akturk, a competitor from Turkey. In international tournaments, the only way you can continue to compete after first-round loss is if your opponent makes it to finals. Akturk ended up losing in the semi-finals, eliminating Sloan from the tournament.

Getting just one match in Estonia left a bad taste in Sloan’s mouth, but he didn’t dwell on the loss for long.

“He has a room full of guys that will push him from the guys on the team to the coaching staff and he can go get his butt kicked one day and the next day he comes in and it doesn’t even phase him,” said second-year SDSU wrestling coach Damion Hahn. “He has a short-term memory.”

The past summer’s losses and having to redshirt were part of Sloan’s motivation entering his redshirt freshman season, while his overall performance garnered high expectations, not only among his coaches but also on the national level.

Sloan entered the season ranked No. 5 at 197 pounds by FloWrestling, but it hasn’t been quite the start he may have been expecting. Through Jan. 28, Sloan has a season record of 14-4 and sits at 18th in the rankings, but there’s still plenty of time on the mat left to make an impact, and Sloan knows what’s still in front of him.

“It doesn’t really matter to me honestly,” Sloan said of the rankings. “A number is just a number, right? Anyone can beat anyone any day, any place. I think it might be a little more pressure, but I’m not really going to worry about it. I have proved that I’m capable of being that high up.”

Sloan’s goal for the year is to be named an All-American. When asked how he is going to accomplish that, he pointed back to what his roots taught him: work hard and stay disciplined. He certainly has a strong group of supporters that believe he can accomplish his goals.

“I never would have the thought coming into college that he would be able to do some of the things he has done in just one year,” Caldwell said. “It’s pretty incredible. He is a special individual and I think he has put the world on notice. It’s going to be a fun ride.”