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DSU wrestling hopes its best is yet to come

For Dickinson State wrestling head coach Justin Schlecht, his first year in charge last season was something to be proud of. The Blue Hawks sent seven wrestlers to nationals, produced four all-Americans, three of which are seniors this year, and ...

Dickinson State's Seth Ehlang, left, competes against Minot State during a dual Feb. 11, 2016, at Scott Gymnasium. (Press File Photo)
Dickinson State's Seth Ehlang, left, competes against Minot State during a dual Feb. 11, 2016, at Scott Gymnasium. (Press File Photo)

For Dickinson State wrestling head coach Justin Schlecht, his first year in charge last season was something to be proud of.

The Blue Hawks sent seven wrestlers to nationals, produced four all-Americans, three of which are seniors this year, and finished eighth in the country at the national meet in Topeka, Kan., last March.

In April, his interim status was dropped, and this year - his second at the helm - the figurative bar has been set.

"One of the things I've said before that this group is doing a good job of, is our younger guys are recognizing the standard and the expectations that we have as a program," Schlecht said. "The freshmen are rising up to that and doing everything they can to meet that standard and meet those expectations - or do better than that."

Redshirts included, the Blue Hawks have a balanced roster of eight freshman, four sophomores, two juniors and 10 seniors.

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For one thing, said Schlecht, that means a headache when it comes to next year's recruiting efforts, but for now, it's a welcomed luxury.

"Everyone kind of takes care of themselves. A lot of older guys in the lineup so everyone kind of knows what they need to do to win and produce, it's not been too tough this year," said Seth Ehlang, a four-year wrestler for DSU from Billings, Mont. "It's been the same crop of guys as last year, we were all juniors and now we're seniors; we haven't had to worry about the things that come with a young team at all."

The season officially got underway a little over a week ago, on Jan. 3, against Dakota Wesleyan in a dual meet in Sturgis, S.D.

Schlecht made clear that Dakota Wesleyan may have been in the midst of a down year, but regardless, the Blue Hawks dominated on their way to a 50-0 victory.

Blue Hawk wrestlers Sean Elkins, Devan Williams, Jon Solano and Jason Zecchini all recorded pins, AJ Locke had a technical fall and Jamie Mullins and three others won by forfeit.

It was the perfect way to start the year.

"Everyone just came out firing and we ended up performing really well," said Lane Overson, a Killdeer native, who, along with Elkins and Jon Solano makes up the returning all-American trio. "It helped us get a look at where we're at and what we need to work on. We know it's a clean slate this year, we're just trying to use something like that toward grinding every day and getting better."

DSU competed again on Jan. 7 at the Hastings Cusatis Open in Hastings, Neb., where a total of 17 competed, recording 13 pins. Elkins was the highest finisher - second place in weight class.

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The Blue Hawks continue today against MSU-Northern, and again on Friday against Great Falls; both are away matches.

They're at home three times this season, and all events are this month. DSU hosts Concordia College on Jan. 26, the Tyler Plummer Classic on Jan. 28 and Northern State on Jan. 31.

After that, three more days of competition remain before the NAIA Regional Tournament on Feb. 18.

"We're hungry to take this thing to the next level. Everything we're doing now is to prepare for the postseason," said AJ Locke, a senior. "I think this year, with the group of guys we have, eighth place (last year in the NAIA Nationals) doesn't bring to the table all that we're capable of. We're capable of even more that, and I think we'll show that later on in the season."

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