College notebook: Kallestad puts team before selfJake Kallestad may be the lightest heavyweight at this weekend’s NAIA national wrestling tournament.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Jake Kallestad may be the lightest heavyweight at this weekend’s NAIA national wrestling tournament.
Weighing in at 215 pounds earlier this week, the Dickinson State junior is ranked fifth in a weight class that has a cut off of 285 pounds.
Neither Kallestad nor Blue Hawks coach Thadd O’Donnell is worried, however.
“It’s not his first rodeo at heavyweight,” O’Donnell said.
As a sophomore at North Idaho College in 2007, Kallestad won a junior college national championship at heavyweight and he wasn’t much bigger than he is now, which gives him hope he’ll be able to fare well heading into the tournament, which begins today in Oklahoma City.
“I’m quicker than most of those guys,” Kallestad said. “Then again, I’ve got to be careful though because most of them are 40 to 60 pounds heavier than me.”
For much of the 2008-09 season, Kallestad wrestled at 197 pounds. He couldn’t officially join DSU’s team until the spring semester, so he competed unattached during the fall semester.
Nonetheless, Kallestad compiled a 19-2 record this year with his one of his losses coming against Chadron State senior Josh Majerus, the top-ranked 197-pounder in NCAA Division III.
While O’Donnell believes Kallestad could have competed for a national title at 197, he’s more of a help to the Blue Hawks at heavyweight.
“He’s put the team before his own,” O’Donnell said. “We know he’s going to be a competitor wherever he wrestles.”
Bennett looks to perform at nationals after rough regional
For Shane Bennett, just being on the mat this weekend is a testament to his willpower.
In 2007, as a freshman, Bennett claimed 165-pound runner-up honors at the national tournament. That next summer, he was involved in a automobile accident that kept him out for a year.
After starting this season strong, Bennett was set back by nagging injuries that stayed with him throughout the season.
Now, the fourth-year sophomore must shake off a loss to Tom Eaton of Northwestern (Iowa) College in the North Region’s 174-pound championship match. The match caused a shakeup in the national rankings, dropping Bennett from second to fourth and Eaton from sixth to second.
But Bennett isn’t worried. He’s feeling good and has high hopes for the weekend.
“Everything is different at nationals,” said Bennett, who is 16-8 on the season. “It all comes down to that.”
O’Donnell believes good things will come if Bennett maintains a positive focus this weekend.
“He’s come a long ways. Right now it’s up to him,” O’Donnell said. “He’s going to have to really push the envelope of the mental aspect of it where before he was the underdog and he liked that thrill and that challenge. He’s in a similar spot, except for there’s a lot more eyes on him. How he responds to that is definitely going to dictate how he does.”
Olea making a name for himself in first semester
O’Donnell has Fresno (Calif.) City College wrestling coach Paul Keysaw and DSU 141-pounder Edgar Mercado to thank for landing breakout 125-pounder Angel Olea.
Olea, who transferred to DSU over the Christmas break, built a 12-2 record en route to a North Region championship. But, as O’Donnell said, getting Olea to DSU took “a little longer than one phone call.”
O’Donnell said Keysaw is a fan of DSU’s wrestling program and helped convince Olea to give DSU a chance.
“He’s played a big role in my life,” Olea said.
A junior from Farmersville, Calif., Olea won a California Junior College state championship as a sophomore last season. When he arrived at DSU, he quickly established himself as the teams’ primary 125-pounder.
Olea ended the regular-season ranked fourth in the nation and will likely have a high seed in the national tournament. He believes the work he has put in at DSU in the two short months he has been here has made him a better wrestler.
“It feels like a step higher,” Olea said. “You’re working harder. You’ve got to put in your own time if you want to get where you want to get.”
DSU 184-pounder Brett Owen is ranked fourth in the nation despite having defeated No. 1-ranked Michael French of Great Falls and No. 2-ranked Evan Hinebauch of Montana State-Northern in a two-week span late in the regular season. … Freshman Issac Romero defaulted to Olea in the 125-pound title match at the North Region tournament. He has a 18-8 record. … Senior Eli Zuniga, the sixth-ranked 141-pounder, has a 15-4 record compiled only during the spring semester. … Sixth-ranked 157-pounder Nick Zumwalt has a 20-12 record.