SDSU sends three wrestlers to NCAA championships

Cody Pack came within one win of giving South Dakota State wrestling their first ever Division I All-American as Pack, Nate Rotert and J.J. Everard competed at the NCAA Wrestling Championships last Thursday and Friday.

“It’s the national tournament, it’s the best of the best,” head coach Chris Bono said. “We had our opportunities and just didn’t capitalize. … Everybody there’s good. Everybody there is capable of being beat. That’s just the way it went.”

Their opening matches proved especially cruel to the Jackrabbits as all three wrestlers suffered defeats, forcing them to make their way back in the wrestleback brackets.

Pack’s defeat came by a single point as an official review at the end of the third period handed the University of Maryland’s Louis Mascola a takedown and the upset. 

“He lost focus for a quick second and when you’re wrestling the best it happens,” Bono said. “We knew we should have had that match.”

Pack would rebound though, scoring a 3-2 victory over the University of Virginia’s Andrew Atkinson on Thursday night to stay alive.

Pack carried that momentum into Friday where he downed Ohio State University’s Joe Demas, 8-3, and Columbia’s Markus Scheidel, 4-2, to earn a shot at becoming an all-American against Virginia Technical Institute’s Nick Brascetta.

“It’s the worst road you want,” Bono said of wrestlebacks. “It’s tough, but he did a great job and it was close.”

An all-American finish to Pack’s SDSU career was not to be though as Brascetta knocked Pack out of the championships with a 5-2 victory.

Everard finished the tournament with no victories, losing both of his matches on falls, but he will have a chance at redemption next year in his senior campaign.

“J.J. made a ton of improvements [during the year],” Bono said. “If we keep improving, he’ll find himself going deep into the NCAA’s [next year].”

Rotert also found himself knocked out of the tournament winless, still hampered by the injury that kept him from a potential victory in the conference championship.

“He did the best he possibly could wrestling with one arm,” Bono said.

Only a redshirt freshman, Rotert should have many more opportunities in the coming years to prove what he can do at full strength. 

Even though the results did not match Bono’s hopes this year, SDSU wrestling nevertheless looks to be on the upswing. With a strong recruiting class and a roster that should return all but four wrestlers, the Jacks should be ready to continue their forward progress next season, a step that, for Bono, begins immediately.

“We’ve got to get stronger, we’re going to get more technically sound and we’ve got to make sure we got that hunger to get ready to go and compete next year,” Bono said.