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DSU wrestlers ready for nationals

Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State freshman Seth Ehlang, right, tries to flip University of Great Falls senior Kyle Wilson for a takedown during the 141-pound bout at the Tyler Plummer Classic on Jan. 18 at Wienbergen Gymnasium.

The blood, sweat and tears from the wrestling season has all led up to this weekend.

Five Dickinson State wrestlers —Seth Ehlang, Skyler Carroll, Sean Elkins, Jesse Hellinger and Brian Klevis — have proven themselves over the course of the season and will wrestle in their final matchups of the year at the NAIA National Championships beginning today in Topeka, Kan.

The wrestlers have reached their physical peak and there is little room for drastic improvements.

However, the national tournament is a completely different atmosphere and training has consisted mostly of mental preparations with grueling conditions.

“Coach (Thadd O’Donnell) is trying to push us, trying to get more for our tank, like conditioning,” said Ehlang, who is a true freshman. “Basically, it is mental and he’s trying to toughen us up. That’s why we’re doing break matches, which is fresh guys wrestling us all the time and we don’t get as many breaks. It’s tougher and definitely part of the mental game.”

Ehlang and sophomore Carroll are newcomers to the national stage and are excited to have made it this far. In the North Region qualifiers on Feb. 22, Carroll finished fourth at 197 pounds and Ehlang took sixth at 141.

For Carroll, making it to nationals has been in the back of his mind after missing qualifying the season before due to sickness and a bad luck of the draw facing the eventual national champion at 197.

“Missing it last year was a big upset for me and gave me a good push going into this year,” he said. “I knew going into regionals I had to wrestle hard because we had a stacked weight class at 197, possibly the national champion and a couple other top ranked guys in there so to make top four, we had to wrestle really well.”

At this point of the season, wrestling is all the about the individual, but Ehlang and Carroll haven’t been going into this weekend blind. Hellinger (197) and Elkins (157) are returners to the national tournament and have been Ehlang’s and Carroll’s wrestling partners.

Last season, Hellinger took runner-up at 184, while Elkins lost in the quarterfinals.

“The last couple of weeks, Seth and me have been getting a lot of workouts in together so like, we’re the two young guys in the starting lineup and clicked like that,” Elkins said. “I think we’re alike in sharing the experience even though I’ve already been there, it’s fun seeing it through his eyes and he’s confident, I’m confident, we’ve made it.”

For seniors Hellinger and Klevis and sophomore Elkins, it feels good to be back on the national stage.

After years of duals, qualifiers and trips to nationals, they know exactly what to expect and how to handle the event, since the experience is vastly different from the regular season.

“You walk in and you can see the guys and tell by how people carry themselves,” Hellinger said. “These aren’t guys who are going to get pushed over these real men and they’re here to fight and here to battle. It’s basically like being in a room of gladiators and who’s going to be the last guy standing.”

Elkins added: “I like the intensity and the atmosphere of it, you can feel the tension and it’s real exciting. I’m a big adrenaline junkie and I love postseason tournaments, it’s my favorite time of the year.”

While the five hope to earn an all-American or championship title, each wrestler has a personal goal going into the tournament. For Ehlang and Carroll, they’re looking forward to the tougher competition, while Elkins said he can’t wait to see Hellinger contend, if not win his national championship.

For the two seniors, this is their final chance to achieve a title at DSU. Hellinger said he’s thoroughly enjoyed his time as a Blue Hawk and is looking forward to leaving it all out on the mat one last time in front of his family and friends.

“I’m excited to go out, put my shoes on for one last go, show them what I got,” he said with a smile. “Get my hand raised a few times and just have fun doing it and enjoy my last few times wrestling.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.

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