College Wrestling: Ridgewater 6 heads to nationals

Feb. 24—WILLMAR — All six of Ridgewater's national qualifiers belong on the big stage.

That's the feeling wrestling co-head coaches Travis Deegan and Logan Peterson have following last weekend's Region 13 tournament. All six either won or took runner-up in their respective weights, leaving nothing to chance in wild-card picks.

"Logan and I didn't have to vouch," Deegan said. "Our guys just showed on the mat that they deserve to be down there."

Now, the Ridgewater six — Cole Holien (141 pounds), Brady Holien (149), Taedon Nichols (157), Wil Yasseri (165), Rick Jones (197) and Austin Schlangen (285) — have a week before they try to prove themselves again on the national stage.

The 2023 NJCAA Championships take place March 3-4 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The six Warriors are hoping to finish in the top eight to become Ridgewater's first All-American since Mark Voss finished seventh at 140 pounds in 2018.

Yasseri and Jones are returners to nationals after qualifying last season.

Jones, a sophomore from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, has a 7-13 record this season. Yasseri, a sophomore from Rogers, is 4-8. They both made it back to nationals after winning true-second place matches at regionals. Jones pinned Itasca Community College's Linus Brown in 1 minute, 35 seconds. Yasseri advanced with a 16-1 tech fall over Itasca's Peyton Hermann.

At last season's national tournament, Yasseri went 1-2 while Jones was 0-2.

"I think that shows heart and experience coming back and making it into the true-second round and then winning it late in the day," Deegan said. "The regional seemed way more competitive this year relative to last year, so we're very proud of them for doing that."

Putting together the strongest showing at regions was Cole Holien. And the freshman from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City has been impressing in his maiden college wrestling campaign.

Cole is 15-4 this season. Only one of his losses has come against NJCAA competition. He's won eight straight matches, including two first-period falls, at regionals. In the 141 finals, he pinned Itasca's Charlie Black in 2:14.

"He just lets it fly; he just goes out there and he's looking to score a lot of points," Deegan said, "and he typically does. It's super fun sitting in his corner as he's gone on to do that.

"He's definitely having a remarkable season."

Schlangen is right behind Cole for regular-season success. The freshman heavyweight from Eden Valley-Watkins is 12-8 this season. Only two of his losses have come against NJCAA competition. And since the new year, he's been 5-2 with a first-place finish at the North Country Open in Collegeville on Jan. 22.

"He's had an exceptional year as well," Deegan said of Schlangen. "He took third at Augsburg (on Nov. 19) and he's been in the top three of pretty much every tournament in the second semester, I think."

Cole's brother, Brady, comes into nationals with an 11-9 record.

"I think Brady's got a great shot to contend for All-American honors next weekend," Deegan said. "Him and Cole are pretty similar in that they just go out there and let it fly and they like to score points."

Nichols was the third Warrior to make his way to nationals through a true-second match. Ridgewater was a perfect 3-0 in true-second matches at regionals. After losing in the 157 finals in overtime, Nichols pinned Northland Community and Technical College's Timothy Thurman in 2:22 to qualify.

Nichols has an 8-9 record this season. The freshman from Siren, Wisconsin has battled for everything this season.

"Him and Brady were at the same weight at the start of the season and we can only send one guy per weight, so he went up to 157," Deegan said. "He's done very well up there. He's been filling in the weight the last couple weeks. Despite going up in weight, he has just as good of a shot as anyone else to go out and become an All-American."

In their first season as co-coaches, Deegan and Peterson have had fun getting the Warriors to this point. Now, they're hoping to bring back an All-American to the school after a five-year gap.

"We have a very remarkable group of athletes and sending six to nationals shows that," Deegan said. "Coaching with Logan has been great; he's been a great addition to the program.

"It's just been a great year and a lot of fun. It's a great group of guys that we get to coach."