BY BREANN LENZMEIER
When wrestlers look at a calendar, the month that stands out to them is March – when all the hard work, dedication and extra time in the practice room can pay off. For two Dragon wrestlers, they have the opportunity to finish on top in Division II wrestling. True freshman Blake Bosch and senior Conner Monk qualified for the NCAA Division II wrestling championships in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend.
Both wrestlers finished in the top five of their respective weight classes; Bosch finished fifth at the 125-pound weight class, and Monk finished fourth at the 174-pound weight class. Both wrestlers finished with winning records at the Super Region Three to advance.
Each wrestler had a unique season, with Bosch in his first year at MSUM being a leader for the team throughout the year. Bosch, from Wishek, N.D., carried the momentum he had in high school over to the college scene, having the second most career wins in the state with 240. He had to make some adjustments when he transitioned from wrestling in high school to college.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming in … it was a big change because you are wrestling the extra minute and riding time is a factor,” Bosch said.
He credits the coaching staff in helping him adjust to college wrestling and helping him find success in his first year at MSUM.
Bosch knew his season could be special when he beat Anthony Bruno from Northern State at the Dragon Open in December. Bruno was a national qualifier last season for the Wolves.
“I knew I was right there … that I had the ability to stick with them,” Bosch said.
Bosch said he had to cut a lot of weight to get down to 125 pounds and battled with Shane Novak for the starting spot. He said he had to commit to a good diet throughout the year to maintain his weight.
Bosch won a majority of his matches throughout the season and helped the Dragons start off the duals with a win. Bosch said that attitude, work ethic and great coaching helped him stay humble during the season; all those things added up to success on the mat.
Bosch said he chose MSUM because its wrestling program is “going in the right direction,” and the coaching staff does a great job in preparing the wrestlers. Bosch said the coaches have helped him a lot this season, and that success will come with continued work.
That was the case for Bosch at the qualifier when he took to the mat in Edmond, Okla. He said he was ready for his first match, and he came away with the win. Although he dropped a couple matches, Bosch set himself up for a trip to nationals by making it into the fifth and sixth place matches. Bosch took on Lawson Ludwin of Fort Hays State and won by a 5-3 decision to punch his ticket to nationals by earning fifth.
“After qualifying, all my teammates were there and ran down to give me a big hug … we are just one big family, and that was one of the things I was looking for in coming to MSUM,” Bosch said.
The team is a very close group and “everyone works their butt off” every day, Bosch said
“Keep working hard and doing what the coaches ask, and it will lead to success,” he said.
Bosch said that qualifying for nationals in his first year is a confidence booster, and that the sky is the limit for him.
“I haven’t wrestled a lot of these kids (at nationals), but I can go with these guys,” he said.
Bosch said he is taking his next match as though it were just another dual, even if it is at nationals. Bosch will bring a 20-12 into the tournament and said that he expects to be an All-American and national champion in his time at MSUM.
“I’m taking it one match at a time, and that’s all I can do,” Bosch said.
While Bosch is in his first year with the Dragons, Conner Monk is finishing his last. Monk, in his senior season, qualified for the national tournament by finishing fourth in the 174-weight class in the Super Region three qualifier. Monk wrestled at Itasca Community College for two years before coming to MSUM.
Monk looked back at his season as a tale of two halves; his first half before Christmas break, and after, when he says he refocused and saw that he could finish his career in a positive way. After Christmas break he was inserted into the starting lineup and started to pick up momentum as the season went along. Monk had a stretch where he won three matches in a row, with two of them coming on the road. That is when Monk said he started to see things looking up.
“Everything is coming together now, and I’m peaking at the right moment, which is perfect,” he said.
Monk, a criminal justice major from Wausau, Wis., grew up in a wrestling family. His older brother is a senior at NDSU and wrestles for the Bison. Monk said that he and his brother have been wrestling since they were in kindergarten, and that wrestling has meant a lot to them.
Monk credits his time at Itasca for helping prepare him for Division II wrestling. He said it can be a culture shock for some to come straight from high school to college. If he had to do it all over again, he would still go to a junior college because it was a “great stepping stone” and helped him get to the point where he is today, Monk said.
He chose MSUM so he could be close to his brother and because it is a part of the MnSCU system, so his credits were able to transfer over. After graduation he would like to stay in the area and give back to the community that has given him so much the past two years, he said.
Monk’s positive thinking in life has played a huge role in his performance when stepping out on the mat, he said. He also said that he wrestles to make his parents proud, especially his dad, who is in the military on deployment.
“I want them to be proud and to know that I’m making something of myself that they can be proud of,” he said. “I always want to do whatever I can to make him (his dad) proud.”
Monk went in to the qualifier with the mindset that he needed to do whatever he could to qualify. He said that he wasn’t necessarily seeded to place, and that the first match of the tournament was important to him. He said if he can give one piece of advice it would be to always be ready for your first match.
He made it into the semis, and even though he lost, he came into his next match and pinned his opponent. Monk finished the tournament with three pins. Since high school he has been working on his cradle to secure success in matches.
Going into the national tournament, Monk said he is going to keep at what he has been doing this season and keep focused. He too is taking it one match at a time and wants to focus on the now and what he needs to do to get on the podium in Cleveland.
When Monk thinks about what he is going to do after his wrestling career comes to its end, he said he thinks of a quote by longtime college coach Dan Gable: “Once you have wrestled, everything else is easy.”
Monk said he is thankful to everyone who has helped him get to this point in his wrestling career including his family, coaches and teammates.
Monk will enter the tournament with a 14-12 record on the season.