Dickinson State University’s wrestling team, struck with the tragedy of their 285-pound freshman wrestler Michael Streeter suffering a traumatic brain injury en route to his home state of South Dakota for the holiday break, rallied hard to earn a victory in their first duels since the tragedy.
The team took 11 days before returning to the mats on Dec. 28 to get in preparation for its matchup in Rapid City on Jan. 6.
After seeing their teammate in the hospital, the team dedicated Wednesday’s duals in honor of their recovering compatriot and were keen on honoring him with victories against tough competition.
The Blue Hawks finished with a 1-1 split in Rapid City. In their first frame they gassed Hastings in a 30-21 smashing victory, but by the second dual tensions and the pressure of it all got the better of DSU as they broke to Morningside College’s pressure in a 34-12 loss.
Blue Hawks Head Coach Justin Schlecht reflected on the tenacious battle his athletes had both on and off the mat. Schlecht commended his team for a solid first performance, but was unimpressed with their tight matches, sudden gains and losses being quickly bucked by the Mustangs in the second dual.
Schlecht understood the pressure the team faced in the absence of their friend and teammate Streeter.
“It’s a tricky thing, absolutely, but we can’t let that be an excuse,” Schlecht said. “We have to operate as business as usual, that’s what Micahel wants, that’s what Big Streeter wants and we know his mindset would be no excuses, no regrets.”
In its first matchup, the Blue Hawks got off to a slow start with Hastings taking a win by forfeit at 125, followed by Hastings’ Zac Charity earning a 14-12 decision over Blue Hawk freshman Clay Gerhardt.
Dickinson State proceeded to get on the board with freshman Tayt Wolding acquiring a fall victory against Destry Schmidt in a match that saw Wolding use good hip control in scoring points.
Hastings responded with back-to-back victories, the first being a 5-1 decision from Hastings’ Riley Dement over Matt Carlson. The second being a fall from Taygen Smith over Grayson Hicks.
Thomas Stevenson of Hastings expanded the lead with a 7-2 decision win over sophomore Tate Norby in a match that saw a steady stream of attacks quashed by Stevenson.
The Blue Hawks were down, but the match was far from over and returned with a heated vengeance in the second half of the meet.
Junior Caden Haugen ignited the Blue Hawks squad with a fall victory over Austin Mitchell in perhaps one of the upsets of the night. This was quickly followed by Blue Hawks junior Konrich Speelmon tallying a fall victory over Jayden Miller that brought tempo to a fever pitch on the DSU side. Payson Dirk next won his matchup by forfeit for Dickinson State which cooled the crowd a bit, but opened the door for a fourth straight victory.
Senior Ethan Goss-Dickie of DSU stood proud on the mat, hand raised after a pinfall win over Marco Valdivia in a match that had decent heat and tremendous wrestling.
Dickinson State closed out the match with freshman Caleb Nielsen taking the fall victory over his opponent Destry Schmidt to close out the match with a final 30-21 victory for the Hawks.
“We competed great, we really got at it by being offensive, being aggressive and carrying a lot of confidence into those matches,” Schlecht said.
Upon getting the victory, Dickinson State were in bright spirits going into its matchup against Morningside, but those spirits were shadowed by a darkening cloud for most of the second dual.
The Mustangs gained the high ground by quickly taking advantage of the Blue Hawks from opening instructions through the ticks of the clock.
Along with taking the forfeit win at 125, Morningside earned three consecutive wins with Taylor Vasquez garnering a major decision win over Gerhardt, Noah Styskal clutching a 6-4 decision over Wolding and John Diener overwhelming junior Trey Fischbach in a fall.
With their backs to the wall, the Blue Hawks had two paths before them. One leading to a stunning recovery and narrow upset, the other to a crushing defeat.
Dickinson State caught a break with Matt Carlson earning a victory via forfeit at 157, before Norby grinded his way to a 7-5 decision win over Alexander Thompson.
Dickinson appeared poised to claim the victory if they could keep the momentum going with their heavier wrestlers. Yet, Morningside remained undeterred and would soon begin their rally against Dickinson State.
Determined to get a win, Morningside killed any chance of a comeback with another three straight wins starting with Jonah Egli who got the mat slap win over Haugen; Kaimana McCreadie clinched a majority decision over Speelmon; and finally Kasten Grape claimed a technical over Dirk.
The Blue Hawks concluded the match on a positive finish with Zach Myers collecting a 3-1 decision win over Derrell Zagurski coupled with sophomore Dante Venema ending the day with a fall win over Evan Shell.
But the deed was done, and the Blue Hawks ended with a 34-12 defeat that silenced DSU.
“We got into a little bit of those scramble situations or positions where we had to fight through to kind of score a point or two and we didn’t execute real hard and we didn’t execute with a lot of confidence,” Schlecht said. “I don’t think it was fatigue, I think it was a mindset. Just a little bit of overconfidence or something of that mindset.”
Along with the 1-1 split, Schlecht believes the team learned a lot with the matches and looks forward to watching the players improve going forward.
“Every time we step on the line it’s go time,” Schelecht said. “We have to have the mindset of ‘my job out here is to be more offensive than him and not wait and not think that things are just going to happen,’” he said.
The Blue Hawks return to action on Jan. 16 in Orange County, IA for duals against Northwestern College and Concordia University.