South Dakota State wrestling routs North Dakota State to take Border Bell trophy

Feb. 25—BROOKINGS — Sunday was Tanner Cook's 25th birthday. That he's still an active college wrestler at that age tells you he's been through some things in his career — injuries, defeats, COVID, and a senior year that had seen him struggle to a 3-8 record in dual matches coming into Sunday's Border Bell battle with rival North Dakota State.

It was also, for Cook and the rest of the South Dakota State wrestling team, their last competition at Frost Arena before it transitions to First Bank & Trust, as well as the final home dual for the team's seniors.

That made 11th-ranked SDSU's 34-6 domination of the Bison in front of 2,241 fans a satisfying result, and Cook's win at 165 pounds was the highlight.

Cook manhandled NDSU's Brendan Howes to the edge of the mat, then flipped him onto his back for a sudden and stunning pin in the first match out of intermission, bringing the crowd to life and providing an emotional and memorable end to Cook's long career at Frost Arena.

"I've been struggling a little bit this year getting my hands on guys and staying calm," Cook said. "It can be pretty overwhelming to get a big crowd, it's senior night, but I know if I can force a guy to wrestle in my positions chances are I can catch him slipping and I did. After tha first takedown I was gonna go after him the rest of the match.

"That was my favorite win ever," Cook added. "I had some family here for the fist time ever. I didn't want to let them down; they drove all the way from New York. One of my best friends came from Colorado. So I had to win that match whatever it took."

Cook's pin just 76 seconds into his match was one of several highlights for the Jacks.

Tanner Jordan (ranked 14th in the country) opened the dual with a 13-0 major win at 125, and after NDSU's Fernando Barreto upset 20th-ranked Derrick Cardinal at 133 by a 7-2 decision, Clay Carlson eked out a 4-1 win at 141.

"I'm excited about how I've been able to wrestle the last few times on the mat," said Carlson, ranked 22nd in his weight. "Today the score could've been better for me, but I just didn't finish a couple shots that I definitley could have. If I finish that shot in the first, finish that shot in the second, all the sudden I major that guy. I'm right where I want to be leading into posteason."

Then came the most dramatic match of the day, when at 149 SDSU's Alek Martin scored an 8-7 win that almost wasn't. Martin built a 7-2 lead over Max Petersen after two periods, seemingly putting the match in hand. But Petersen scored a pair of takedowns in the third to tie the score then scored two more on a near-fall to take an apparent 9-7 lead. SDSU challenged, however, and the near-fall points were revoked upon review. With the score back at 7-7 with only seconds left in the match, Martin was able to maneuver an escape just before the buzzer to score the win.

"We made a little mistake by stepping in close and we get picked and right to our back," SDSU coach Damion Hahn said of Martin allowing Petersen back in the match. "But I like the fact that we were on the attack, looking to score."

From there the Jacks dominated, getting a 10-1 major decision from 18th-ranked Cael Swensen at 157 and after Cook's pin at 165, saw 4th-ranked Cade DeVos outlast 17th-ranked Gavin Sax by a 5-2 score in the 174-pound match.

Then at 184 the Jacks got their second pin, with No. 8 Bennett Berge dumping Adam Cherne.

The party continued with ace Tanner Sloan, the Jacks' 4th-ranked 197-pounder, dominating Spencer Mooberry 15-0, ending the match by tech fall in the second period. With the win, Sloan ends his career undefeated at Frost Arena, 25-0.

NDSU managed its second win of the day in the final match, with Devin Dawson nipping Bowen McConville 4-2 at 285, but that did little to sap the enjoyment of the Jacks keeping the Border Bell trophy on their side for another year. With the win, the Jacks finish the regular season 13-4 and 7-2 in Big 12 duals. NDSU falls to 3-11, 2-6.

"Anytime you get to beat the Bison it's always fun," Hahn said. "This was more than just a wrestling match tonight. I got here six years ago and we have guys that this was their last time stepping on the mat at home, so for me it was a little emotional. These guys were here from the beginning when we got here. It's bittersweet for me because we wouldn't be where we are as a program if it weren't for them, and I'm super, super proud of what they've been able to do on the mat and in the classroom. It's special."