BY Mikayla Fischer
As MSUM fall sports wind down, winter sports are starting to pick up. The Dragon wrestling team is ready to takedown the season.
Practice officially started on Oct. 12, but the wrestlers have been working hard since school started to reach their goals of making it to the national championship.
“It feels like there is more energy [in the wrestling room] than there has ever been,” Head Coach Kris Nelson said.
Nelson is in his seventh year as head coach at MSUM and is looking to take his athletes further than ever. Last year the team went 8-5, and this year it is looking for more victories.
Joining Nelson and Assistant coach Eric Sanders is Assistant coach Steven Monk. Monk wrestled at NDSU where he was a standout. Monk is a former All-American at 165 pounds who placed third at the Division I Championship and was the fifth most dominant wrestler in 2014. Monk replaces Evan Forde, who became the head coach at Minot State University.
Forde left in May, and Monk was hired in August.
Monk has brought a great work ethic and intensity to the team. Monk’s success has helped the wrestlers work harder for their goals. Three times a week they have a 6:30 a.m. run and have open mats.
“If you’re going to get better, you have to wrestle,” Nelson said, “Steven wrestles with the guys. It’s good to have someone young in there. The middle and upper weights will benefit from him.”
Monk hopes to help the wrestlers both on and off the mat, and is looking forward to seeing how far they come this season in wrestling and academics.
This year’s team has a strong group of juniors leading the way.
Junior Blake Bosch finished last season by placing eighth in the 133-pound weight class at the Division II National Championship and was named an All-American in that weight class.
Bosch was happy with his finish at the championship, but not totally satisfied. Bosch beat opponents earlier in the season that placed higher than him at the tournament. Knowing he can do better is helping to keep him motivated this season.
“Nelson does a pretty good job of keeping us all motivated,” Bosch said. Bosch plans on wrestling at 133-pounds again this season.
Junior Garret Hoffner was one match away from placing at the regional tournament last season. “I put a lot of work in, so hopefully it pays off this year,” Hoffner said.
Like Bosch, Hoffner wrestled as a true freshman. Hoffner said he was nervous wrestling his freshman season but, now that this is his third season, he is a lot more comfortable wrestling for a Division II school.
Shane Novak, Isaac Novacek and Nadar Abdullatif are also among the tight-knit group of juniors. Dan Murakami is out for the season due to a neck injury.
The Dragons are returning their only senior, Mike Urban.
The team also has 16 recruits to fill its roster.
“I am looking forward to teaching the young guys the way,” Bosch said.
Making the transition from high school wrestling to college wrestling isn’t always easy. Nelson said it’s all about staying in a routine and being consistent. “Just get in there and battle,” he said, “You’re going to take your bumps, but continue to work hard and be coachable, and you can accomplish a lot. Don’t quit, basically.”
Bosch added, “Even when you don’t want to practice, those are the most important ones.”
The Dragons take on Concordia College for their home opener on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at Nemzek Field House.