Hungry Bison Stampede into Season
Seniors look to lead young team to conference title
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 02:10
This season will be more important than ever for NDSU wrester Steven Monk.
Monk’s senior year will be his last chance at claiming a coveted spot as a Division I All-American—an honor he has been one win away from each of the last two seasons.
This year, Monk is ranked in the top five 165-pound wrestlers in multiple polls. The Wisconsin native said he has been even more motivated in his preparation for this season.
“It’s really difficult to be a wrestler at this level,” Monk said. “I just try to set a good example and let the kids know that they can be successful too because they do all the same stuff that I do, so there’s no reason you can’t be successful as well.”
Monk, Justin LaValle and Tyler Diamond are the only seniors on the 2013-2014 NDSU wrestling roster. With the team being as young as they are, the seniors have needed to establish themselves as leaders early on.
LaValle, who was ranked as a top 20 wrestler in the country at 141 pounds, said he has just been trying to show the underclassmen how things are done in Division I wrestling.
“These guys work hard and the future is bright I think,” LaValle said. “It’s the stuff you do when nobody is looking that’s really going to set you above the other guys. Every team wrestles just as hard and trains just as hard, but it’s the stuff you do on your own that’s going to put you on that podium.”
With 27 freshmen on the roster, the Bison are expecting their rookies to mature quickly. NDSU will face No. 4-ranked Missouri at the Bison Sports Arena on Friday.
Though they will face stiff competition, NDSU head coach Roger Kish said having a ranked opponent on their home mat is exactly what his team wants.
“We’re excited,” Kish said. “We want the opportunity to wrestle the best guys in the country. I think that’s the mindset our guys have. They want to compete against the best.”
Last year, the Bison finished 10-8 with an undefeated record in the Western Wrestling Conference. After claiming the WWC regular season title, the Bison fell short at the NCAA Western Regional to Wyoming by only three points.
With some success coming from last season, Kish is confident in the outlook on his team. Though it is still only the preseason, Kish said his team is looking solid for the amount of youth they have.
“We’re trying to push them hard early and get them ready for the season,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that we’re trying to help understand our wrestling program and what we’re all about and really have them buy into the system.”
NDSU is ranked outside the top 20 teams, but Monk isn’t shaken in the least. He said he is focused on how the Bison can prove themselves as a consistent team in the WWC.
He said the most important goal for the entire Bison crew will be to come out of this year’s regional on top.
“It’s great to see a lot of new and young faces in the lineup getting some experience,” Monk said. “I think we’re young, but I think we’ll be able to continue where we left off last year and build from there.”
There is a sign above the team’s weight room which reads, “the desire to win is useless without the desire to prepare”—a motto which seems to fit Monk very well.
He said after coming so close to the team title and an All-American selection, he will be hungry for the best results in his last season as a college wrestler.
“After two years, I’ve been one round away (from All-American selection) and that’s not how you want to go out,” Monk said. “This will be my last year to wrestle and I’m just going to leave it all out on the mat. I’ve been working hard this summer and I’m ready for the season to start.”