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Blue Hawks set for tough dual with Great Falls
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Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Something is going to give at the No. 4 spot in the NAIA national wrestling poll on Saturday.

Dickinson State and the University of Great Falls (Mont.) -- tied at fourth in the poll -- meet in Great Falls for a 2 p.m. dual that promises to have implications outside of the rankings.

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"Individually it's going to help us more than it's going to help them. You look at the rankings and we can move up if we get some wins in there," DSU coach Thadd O'Donnell said.

DSU has six wrestlers ranked in the individual top eight in the nation and Great Falls has five.

However, more Great Falls wresters are ranked ahead of their DSU counterparts, making DSU a bit of an underdog.

"I think the target is more on those guys than it is on us," O'Donnell said. "We're definitely better hunters than we are being hunted."

The most interesting matchups could be at 184 and 197 pounds, where DSU wrestlers are ranked lower -- not to mention those Blue Hawks are nursing injuries.

Senior Brett Owen is returning from a stinger suffered at National Duals to face No. 1-ranked Michael French at 184 pounds.

"For him, it's a great opportunity and we want him to be ready for that," O'Donnell said.

At 197, either senior Matt Michaelson or junior Jake Kallestad will face second-ranked Alex Calvi. Kallestad is ranked third and Michaelson seventh in their weight class. However, Kallestad may not be able to go as he is nursing a strained Medial Collateral Ligament in his right knee.

DSU could also fall back on Kallestad's reputation of being able to bump up to heavyweight and face sixth-ranked Brad Fraser there.

"He's going to be there and going to weigh in," O'Donnell said. "It depends on where we're at (in the dual as to) what we're going to do with him."

DSU sophomore Shane Bennett, the second-ranked 174-pounder in the nation, is also fighting an injury and will have to face a ranked opponent.

Bennett hasn't wrestled for a couple weeks while mending a broken right pinky finger. He will likely wrestle seventh-ranked Brendon DeCock.

At 157, healthy DSU sophomore Nick Zumwalt, ranked eighth in the nation, is paired with third-ranked Rosh Mosher.

While many of his wrestlers are battling through pain, O'Donnell isn't too worried about it. At this time of the year, the coach said injuries are more than expected and can provide opportunities to test the team's mentality.

"Those are the things, the nature of the beast. You're going to have those little dings," O'Donnell said. "Nobody's ever 100 percent healthy. We've got to be able to compete with those things."

DSU softball team ranked No. 5 in preseason softball poll

Guy Fridley didn't think the DSU softball team would enter the season ranked this high. But, he's not about to complain either.

With three returning All-Americans, a solid recruiting class and very few losses from last season, the Blue Hawks enter the 2009 season ranked No. 5 in the NAIA preseason poll.

"That doesn't necessarily generate that you're going to go win ball games, but preseason rankings are preseason rankings," Fridley said. "It's where you're at at the end of the year, that's what's going to count."

The Blue Hawks finished in the Elite Eight at last year's national tournament and Fridley expected them to be slotted either seventh or eighth in the preseason rankings.

But with senior pitcher Mehgan Shaw and sophomore pitcher Sara Jane Webster both returning to the belt and senior Nikki Marcoux back at first base, DSU has the means to improve upon last year's 39-10 record.

All three have earned All-American honors -- Webster and Marcoux last season and Shaw in 2007. Marcoux will likely see more time at pitcher this season to give Webster and Shaw breaks and allow room for junior Kelly Jahn at first base.

Jahn was an all-Dakota Athletic Conference selection as a sophomore designated player last season and had a strong national tournament.

Recruits Vanessa Adame and Danielle Crawford also have the team buzzing. Adame is a speedy freshman outfielder and Crawford is a junior expected to step in at shortstop.

DSU's high ranking will be tested early, however.

In their first week of the season, at the Tucson (Ariz.) Invitational, the Blue Hawks will face both No. 1-ranked Lubbock (Texas) Christian and No. 3 California Baptist. Lubbock Christian are the defending national champions and Cal Baptist won the title in 2007 and defeated DSU 1-0 in a 12-inning game in the first game for both teams at last year's national tournament.

"It's going to be a fun, national tournament atmosphere at Tucson," Fridley said. "It's going to be a fun, fun preseason for us. I just want to go in and play well and have an opportunity, when the final innings come, to win the game."

News and notes

Jamestown College has hired Jon Hegerle as its new head volleyball coach. Hegerle was most recently an assistant volleyball coach for Minnesota powerhouse Marshall High School. ... If you get ESPNU on your television, you will be able to watch Killdeer High School graduate Austin Dufault as the Colorado men's basketball team travels to Kansas. The game starts at 2 p.m. Saturday. ... Dakota State volleyball coach Cynthia Henning resigned this week to become the assistant coach at South Dakota State.

Monke is the Sports Editor of The Dickinson Press and covers college athletics. Read his blog at www.areavoices.com/monke.

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