As the 2017-18 season ended in March, Dragons wrestling is already looking forward to next year.
The team finished 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, a down year according to MSUM head wrestling coach Kris Nelson.
“We came into the year with high expectations,” Nelson said. “I don’t think we reached our expectations and our goals that we wanted to. With that being said, I was happy with how we finished out the year.”
The Dragons were winless through the first five NSIC meets, but were trending upward as they ended the season with three consecutive victories entering the NCAA Super Region 3 tournament.
Freshman Cole Jones (5th), freshman Joey Schumacher (5th) and junior Zach Scott (4th) were the three Dragons to place at the region tournament.
Scott pinned Lindenwood’s Danny Swan in the consolation semifinal, propelling him to the third place match and clinching his berth to the NCAA Division II tournament.
“Going into the third and fourth place match, I pinned the kid and I was ecstatic because I knew the chance for me to go to nationals was right there,” Scott said. “I’m not one to celebrate, but I pounded the mat and you could definitely see my emotions after that.”
Scott began the season in the 149-pound division, where he got off to a slow start. After moving down a weight class, Scott gained some momentum and turned his season around.
“I was at 149 and we decided later in the season it was best for me to move down to 141,” Scott said. “That was when I started getting some wins and started to realize that nationals were going to be one of my goals to accomplish.”
Nelson spoke highly of Scott’s abilities. He described Scott as someone who is always in contention to win, no matter how far he falls behind.
“Zach’s the kind of individual you can never count out of a match,” Nelson said. “He’s the kind of person where he could get down by five or eight points and then before you know it you’re on your back getting pinned. He’s very dangerous.”
Jones is another guy on the team Nelson is happy to have going forward, the 125-pounder led MSUM in wins this season, posting a 20-13 record.
Nelson praised Jones’ work ethic and drive to be one of the top competitors on his team.
“He’s a go getter,” Nelson said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys in the room, he’s always in good shape and he’s the type of wrestler who’s always attacking. He’s in your face, always trying to put points on the board. He’s right there with some of the guys in the nation that are pushing for a national title. … We’re excited with him.”
Along with Jones and Scott, Nelson expects Schumacher to be one of the leaders heading into next season as well. Schumacher transferred from Division I Oklahoma State and wrestled in only eight matches for the Dragons, posting a record of 6-2.
“Joey Schumacher is going to have a great future with us,” Nelson said. “He’ll have two years left with us, we’re looking for big things from him next year and the following year. He’s definitely and individual that can push for a national title.”
Mason Schultz and Evan Foster are two more freshmen that stood out to Nelson.
Schultz won the Jamestown Open and ended the year with a 15-8 record, while Foster went 9-3 with two open tournament victories.
Alongside next year’s talented underclassmen, Nelson is excited to have junior Adam Blees returning next year for his senior season. In his junior campaign, Blees struggled with a knee injury, but wound up with a respectable 17-10 record. Nelson was impressed by his season and looks forward to what Blees can do next year.
“Adam Blees I think had a great year too,” Nelson said. “He banged up his knee which haltered him in the middle of the season. He has the potential to make the national tournament and be an All-American, he’s made the tournament and beaten All-Americans before. What he needs to do is put together a good tournament at the national qualifier.”
Now, in the offseason, the team is doing a combination of weight lifting and wrestling throughout the week to prepare for next year, a year Nelson looks forward to.
“We’re having meetings with all the guys, and setting individual and team goals for ourselves because we know we have the potential to be a strong team next year,” Nelson said.