Bison Illustrated November 2021

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NDSU'S FUTURE IS BRIGHT AND THESE

ATHLETES ARE A BIG REASON WHY

WILL MOSTAERT N OV E M B E R 2 0 2 1

ELI MOSTAERT C O M P L I M E N TA RY






CONTENTS

34

COVER STORY 14

RISE

11/2021

51

FEATURES 48

RECURRING

RISE RECAP

8 Editor’s Note 54 Swany Says: Give Me the Mouse Ears

58 16 Emilee Buringa

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SCHMIDTY’S SLANT: 6 MORE ON THE RISE

62 Team Makers

20 Owen Pentz 28 Will & Eli Mostaert 34 Abby Schulte 40 Cade Feeney

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The rise FROM BRADY DRAKE

T

Think back to your first few days on a college campus. Your stomach is fluttering with a mix of excitement and anxiety that only comes during big moments in your life. And the start of college, at least at the time, can feel like one of the biggest moments.

You’re truly on your own for the first time. The world is your oyster and you’re ready to shine. Yet, you aren’t quite sure what settings to use on the washer and dryer. You’re nervous about making friends and fitting in.


FROM THE EDITOR

Holy cow, you’re on your own. You’re the only one really holding yourself accountable. The classes are harder and there’s no getting by without developing some sort of study habits. Oh yeah, and on top of all that, you have a grueling schedule that includes workouts, practices and pressure-packed Division I competition. Or at least that’s the case if you’re a

freshman student-athlete at North Dakota State University. That can be a lot for an 18 or 19-year-old to handle. While there are certainly other factors that come into play, the pressure of that transition alone should be reason enough for many true freshmen to take a redshirt. So, it’s no wonder that many of our favorite student-athletes don’t get the chance to

truly shine until they’re upperclassmen. However, for some athletes, things seem to click right away. And when that happens, we get excited. All of the athletes in this RISE issue found success in their freshman campaigns and bigger things are certainly ahead.


NOVEMBER 2021 | VOLUME 16 ISSUE 7 Bison Illustrated is a free publication distributed monthly (8 times a year). Our mission is to help promote North Dakota State University Athletics, provide a quality and fun reading experience and to improve the way of life in our community. The publication is mailed to homes across the US and has newsstand distribution throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

Publisher Mike Dragosavich EDITORIAL Editorial Team Lead Brady Drake Graphic Designer Kim Cowles Creative Strategist Josiah Kopp Editors Geneva Nodland, Grant Ayers Contract Photographer Jeremy Albright Contributors Josh Swanson, Nolan Schmidt INTERACTIVE Business Development Manager Nick Schommer Business Development Associate Kellen Feeney Videographers Tommy Uhlir, Robert Whiteside Graphic Designer Ben Buchanan ADVERTISING VP of Business Development Paul Hoefer Paul@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Sales Representatives Al Anderson Al@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Zach Willis Zachary@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Client Relations ClientRelations@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Client Relations Manager Jenny Johnson Marketing Designer Christy German ADMINISTRATION VP of Human Resources Colleen Dreyer Account Strategist Cassie Wiste DISTRIBUTION Delivery John Stuber

FOR ADVERTISING, CALL 701-478-SPOT (7768) or email info@spotlightmediafargo.com Bison Illustrated is published by Spotlight Media, LLC. Copyright 2021 Bison Illustrated & bisonillustrated.com All rights reserved. No parts of this magazine may be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Bison Illustrated. Bison Illustrated and Spotlight Media, LLC is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on such information. Spotlight Media, LLC accepts no liability for the accuracy of statements made by the advertisers. Send change of address information and other correspondence to: Spotlight Media LLC. 4609 33rd Ave S Suite #304 Fargo, ND 58104 or Info@SpotlightMediaFargo.com


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North Dakota State has never tried to hide it, they work to develop their student-athletes. As a result, the proverbial kitchen is always stocked. Stocked with fresh talent ready to take the reins. The athletes in this issue are taking the reins early, sometimes earlier than expected. Check out these athletes on the RISE.


EMILEE BURINGA Outfield, Sophomore, St. Charles, Minnesota

By Brady Drake Photos by Josiah Kopp 16

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For Emilee Buringa, reaching base safely seems to come naturally. Even though the former high school catcher wasn't heavily recruited and came to NDSU as a walk-on, she managed to lead the Bison in on base percentage (.412) and batting average (.348). And although the sample size is small, she only had 46 at-bats while Stephanie Soriano led the team with 134, Buringa showed a ton of promise in her first campaign. In addition to her promise at the plate, Buringa managed to swipe three bases, which is only a sneak peak into what she is capable considering she was able to steal 118 bases in her high school career.

How and why did you decide to come to NDSU? My brother is a year older than me and he decided to go to NDSU. When he was up here on a visit, I came with and really liked it. When it came time to make a decision, I picked NDSU because I liked it on the tour and softball just ended up working out. So softball wasn't in the picture? No. I ran into Coach Mueller walking around here on the visit and he told me to come to their camp. I went to the camp the fall of my senior year and got recruited as a preferred walk-on from there. Playing time is never assumed for a true freshman, but it's especially not for a preferred walk-on. How did you make sure that you were ready to go once you got the opportunity? I just had my mind set on trying to do whatever the team needed me to do. The first part of the year, I was really a cheerleader, trying to be as loud as possible in the dugout. Then, I just tried to take advantage of opportunities as they were there for me. 17


GP: 29 GS: 18 AB: 46 AVG: .348 R: 11 H: 16 2B: 1 RBI: 3 SLG%: .370 BB: 4 OBP: .412 SB: 3

Is there anything you've been specifically trying to work on from last year to this year? I've been trying to work specifically on my angles in the outfield so I can be quicker to the ball. At the plate, I'm trying to be quicker to the ball and not have such a long swing. In high school, you were a Catcher and an Outfielder. Were you comfortable in the outfield when you got here? I would say Outfield was always my main position. I was always more of an Outfielder that caught as opposed to a Catcher that played outfield.

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So, I wasn't uncomfortable being out there. However, there was a lot to learn about playing Outfield in college compared to high school. Once I got that down, I was pretty comfortable. Last season, you had quite a bit of success at the plate. Was there anything you changed in your approach as you moved up to the next level? I bunt a lot. So, in high school, I would just bunt and hit. But here, Darren has been working on slapping with me. Do you have a favorite part of the game? I really enjoy baserunning.

What can people find you doing in your free time? I'm a big family person. Like I said, my brother goes to school here. So, we'll spend time together watching football and things like that. Did having your brother on campus make the transition to college easier? Definitely, my brother and I are really close.



Year one at NDSU was anything but typical for Owen Pentz.

so. As a man who places a high importance on his faith, Pentz followed suit.

The 197 lb wrestler managed to earn allconference honors as a freshman, taking seventh at the Big 12 Conference Wrestling Championships. Ultimately, Pentz would go on to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA Championships where he secured an opening round upset against No. 2 ranked Eric Schultz of Nebraska. Pentz then fell in a major decision to No. 15 ranked Michael Beard of Penn State before topping Army's JT Brown and eventually getting bounced by Michigan State's Cameron Caffey.

After his two-year mission trip was over, Pentz spent a year working before enrolling at Fresno State, which he originally committed to in 2016. However, shortly after enrolling, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing Fresno State to announce its intentions to drop its wrestling program. Pentz spent the rest of the year taking online courses before transferring to NDSU in January 2021 as somewhat of a question mark.

All-Conference honors and a couple of wins at the NCAA Championships would be a stellar season for any freshman in the country. However, Pentz's performance was even more impressive considering the fact that he hadn't wrestled in a competitive match for nearly four years. In Pentz's church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's recommended that the young men of the congregation spend their first two years after graduating high school on a mission trip if they have the financial means to do 20

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There was never a question that the talent was there. In high school, he captured a state title in the 182 pound class as a senior and the 170 pound class as a junior. He was also the Junior national freestyle runner-up at 170 pounds. The question going into Pentz's first season with the herd was whether or not he'd be able to regain his form and make an impact. To the viewer, it seems as though he has, but he may only be scratching the surface.


OWEN PENTZ Sophomore, Morgan, Utah

By Brady Drake Photos by Jeremy Albright 21


I had to go through a lot to get back. I was getting beat up bad in practice. It took me three or four weeks before I was able to start scoring points and getting takedowns in practice. When that started happening, my mindset switched and I knew I was getting back into shape and not as terrible as I thought I was.” 22

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You had a long winding road to NDSU. What convinced you ultimately that this was the right place for you to be? The whole coaching staff was great. They were really determined in reaching out to a kid like me who hadn't wrestled in a few years. They were very persistent. What did you do during the mission trip? I got to go around with another guy and teach people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When you attend the church I do, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, and you turn 18, you are recommended to serve a two-year mission. I submitted my paperwork in high school and ended up getting called to South Africa. How did that shape you? It was one of the greatest experiences that I've had in my life, to be able to be by myself, as a young man, and teach people about Jesus Christ. It really helped me to mature. What sort of things did you do to stay sharp from a wrestling standpoint? To be honest, I didn't do a whole lot. During the mission, they set aside 30 minutes of your day to go workout, but I was too lazy to work out most of the time. When I came home from South Africa, I had a year break from everything and I helped out with the high school team, but I mostly just worked during that time as well. Being 21 years old already when you came into your first full year of college, did you have any issues integrating with the other freshman you're coming in with? Yeah, it took me a while to get involved with the team. Especially, with the freshmen. There are some really good guys on the team here though. Things really didn't take that long and they were really great about reaching out to me. You're married, how has that impacted your wrestling career? I would say that it has helped me a lot. I feel like I have a better support system than a lot of the kids who go through college wrestling that aren't married. It helps me a lot.


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How long did it take for that rust to come off after wrestling for three years? It took a long time. I would say it's still coming off. It took me a long time last season to have it come off and I had to get a job this offseason, so, I didn't have a lot of time to wrestle. I'm always trying to become a better wrestler though. It's a never ending journey. How tough were those first few practices back? I didn't even last 10 to 15 minutes drilling takedowns in the first practice before Coach Kish realized I was done. He pulled me off the mat and put me on the treadmill. I had to go through a lot to get back. I was getting beat up bad in practice. It took me three or four weeks before I was able to start scoring points and getting takedowns in practice. When that started happening, my mindset switched and I knew I was getting back into shape and not as terrible as I thought I was. You have to be excited for the season, no? I'm pretty pumped for the day that we have a match. Seeing what I was able to do last year with so little preparation made me pretty proud of myself. I think with the added preparation I have an opportunity to do better. Is there anything else our readers should know about you? My wife and I are expecting a child0. She's due in April and we're very excited about it.




ELI MOSTAERT Lakeville, Minnesota

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WILL MOSTAERT Lakeville, Minnesota

By Brady Drake Photos by Josiah Kopp The Mostaert twins are, without a doubt, a couple of monsters on the NDSU defensive line. The sophomores from Lakeville, Minnesota, at the time of writing this article, have a combined 9 sacks (3.5 for Will and 5.5 for Eli) and 10 tackles for loss (3.5 for Will 6.5 for Eli), putting both brothers squarely in the top three for both categories on the team.

And they're only getting better. Eli, who was named to the Hero Sports Freshman All-America Team in the spring season, has already bested his spring numbers in sacks while tying last seasons tackles for loss number. Will has enjoyed a breakout campaign this fall after playing mostly in a reserve role this past spring.

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Why did you guys end up choosing NDSU? Eli: Great culture, championships, the coaches were amazing. Will: We liked the campus. It's not too big and not too small. Eli: And it's a really great familyoriented program that they have here. Was there ever a thought about the two of you going separate directions in college? Eli: There was a little bit, but not much. I was a preferred walk-on originally, but I eventually got an offer from the coaches after Will had already committed. I didn't have a very good camp when I came here, that's why he got the offer and I didn't.

ELI MOSTAERT

How competitive were you two with one another growing up? Will: We were extremely competitive with one another.

Eli: We would be playing board games and screaming at each other.

Eli: Anything, you name it, we were competitive with it.

Will: Then our parents would be yelling at us.

Will: We'd turn everything, from skipping rocks to whatever, into a competition.

Eli: A lot of our one on one pickup games for basketball ended badly. Whoever lost was pissed. It always

ended in an argument and our parents yelling at us.

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WILL MOSTAERT How has that carried over to NDSU? Do you still get after each other in position drills and whatnot?

Will: No I wasn't.

Will: Yeah, sometimes we do in games as well. It's really not good for us (laughing).

Will: Whatever... Some guys have to separate us sometimes, but it's good for the sport. It's good to be competitive.

Eli: Like against Towson, I was having a pretty good game and he was getting mad saying I was taking all of his tackles from him.

Is there a positive side to that?

Will: I was not. That is not true. Eli: Yes you were.

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Eli: Yes you were.

Will: Definitely, when we were younger, we'd play in two on two basketball tournaments with each other and always had really good chemistry. That has just carried over into football.



As a true freshman, Abby Schulte started the final 17 games of NDSU’s 24 game season. That is not usual, but neither is her prowess on the defensive end of the floor. An article written by the Fargo Forum’s Eric Peterson on January 14, 2021, just 10 games into Schulte’s career, tells you all you need to know about the young stalwart’s presence on the less flashy end of the floor. “She’s probably top two, she’s in the running for the best defender on our team,” Coach Jory Collins was quoted as saying in the article by Peterson. 34

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And Schulte has only grown from that point in her career. As her freshman season progressed, Schulte continued to improve, managing multiple steals in eight games. She was no slouch on the offensive end either, scoring a season-high 16 points against a solid Green Bay team on December, 6.


ABBY SCHULTE Sophomore, Maple Grove, Minnesota

By Brady Drake 35


What did the recruiting process look like for you? How did you end up at NDSU? It was really interesting. I really didn't know what to expect with the recruiting process. I was kind of just seeing which coaches would reach out and contact me. I wanted to go on as many visits as I could, but when I came here and talked to Coach Collins, I pretty much fell in love with it immediately. I knew on my drive home that I wanted to come here. One of the biggest factors in coming

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here was the opportunity to be part of turning the program around. Coach Collins is really competitive and wants to win and I have a lot of that in my nature as well. So, I was really excited to come in and get to work right away. Your dad played baseball at St. Cloud State. Your mom played volleyball at Minnesota-Duluth. Did they have any advice to you for your college career? Not really as far as on the court stuff. They've just been really great about being supportive and wanting me to have fun.

It seems like the defensive end of the court is something you really emphasize, why is that so important to you? Being really strong on the defensive end is something I've always thought was really important. I take a lot of pride in it and the coaches here place a really importance on it as well. As far as your offensive game, what're you working on heading into the season? I'm really working on being more aggressive within the offense. I'm trying


because I was still learning some of the lifts and they wouldn't let me go up in weight until I got the movements down. But now that I have more experience, it's fun to push the weight around and it's great to see the progress. It's a lot easier to see progress lifting weights than it is to see on the court sometimes. What helped you get comfortable enough to where you were able to perform at the level you did as a freshman? I had a lot of focus in practice every day. I paid attention to the details which was a lot, but I was just trying to stay within myself. I knew defense was one of my strengths. I definitely played towards that and I think it helped me get some minutes. On offense, I tried to play my role and do what the team wanted to do. How did your teammates help with that process? to see where I can create for myself and create for my teammates. Now that I have a really good feel for what we're doing as a team, I know when it might be my time to go for an opening or make an extra pass. I'm really starting to find my own way in the offense. Has getting in the weight room helped you at all? Definitely! In high school, I didn't really lift weights so it was a major adjustment coming here. There was a bit of an adjustment period right away

All of us were pretty new so we were all in the position of learning and kind of taking things slow. I wasn't by myself. We were all working together to learn and grow at the same pace as one another. You're a Human Development & Family Science major. How did you come to the decision that you wanted to study that? Pretty much my whole life, I had it in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. My Junior year of high school, I took a

AP Psychology class and really enjoyed it. I fell in love with psychology and got introduced to family therapy and I think that's something I can do well. I love listening to people and trying to help them as much as I can. What are some of your personal goals for the season? I want to score more. I think I can push myself in that way. Towards the end of the year last year, I started to get more offensive rebounds and really look for them. I didn't do that much in high school. So, I want to continue working on crashing the boards and scoring more. What are you most excited about for the season? I'm just really excited to see our team grow. I know last season was a huge learning curve for a lot of us getting experience. We were really young and the more we learn and the more fun we have doing it, we're just going to continue to grow. What are your favorite things to do with your teammates off the court? I actually really enjoy going to volleyball games, soccer games, things like that. I like supporting other athletes. I also really like just hanging out with the team, watching movies, getting food, things like that. It's really simple stuff, but it's really good.

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CADE FEENEY Sophomore, RHP Bismarck, North Dakota

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There was no shortage of hype surrounding Cade Feeney's commitment to North Dakota State. Feeney walked on campus as perhaps one of most anticipated recruits in NDSU Baseball's history. In high school, Feeney led the Bismarck Century Patriots to back-to-back state championships in baseball, posting an otherworldly ERA of 0.80 in his senior season. If that's not impressive enough, he also was the starting quarterback of the football team and scored over 1,000 points in his basketball career. That alone would be enough make Feeney a heralded recruit. However, his family's impressive list of athletic

accomplishments only added to the pressure. His father, Steve, played football for the University of North Dakota. His cousin Trey is currently a quarterback for the Fighting Hawks. Kevin, Cade’s uncle and Trey’s father, is still regarded as one of NDSU’s best quarterbacks of all time. His brother, Dalton, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers after high school, and now has just finished a strong career pitching for North Carolina State. Oh yeah, and before pitching a game last year, he was named the Summit League's Preseason Freshman of the Year. Expectations couldn't have been higher.

And he did not disappoint. As a true freshman, Feeney led NDSU's starting rotation in wins while eating up the secondmost innings on the team and posting the team's second-best ERA among players with over 30 innings pitched. There's no question that the Bison's magical 42-19 2021 season that ended in an NCAA Division I Regional appearance wouldn't have been possible without Feeney's right arm. We caught up with the phenomenal young pitcher to learn more about his first-year experience and what's to come in year two.

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What's your go-to pitch?

Pitching W-L: 8-1 APP: 13 GS: 13 ERA: 3.23 CG: 1 SHO: 1 IP: 69.2 H: 64 R: 25 ER: 25 BB: 18 SO: 56 AVG: .246

I would say my four-seam fastball is probably my go-to pitch. It has got a little bit of ride to it. The coaches here are really helping me develop my slider and changeup as well. Did you expect to make the impact you did last year? Going into last year, I was hoping to just get on the field and help the team win in any little way I could. I didn't think that I would take on the role that I eventually did. However, going through Fall and Winter, the older players and the coaches really started helping me along and showed me I could play an important role with the team. What are you most excited about in year two? I'm really just excited to get the squad back out there and see what we can do. It has been a very competitive fall with the new guys coming in and all of the transfers. How did you work to make sure this is a welcoming environment for all of the transfers?

Hitting AVG: .286 GP: 24 GS: 16 AB: 14 R: 3 H: 4 2B: 1 RBI: 1

We tried to be really good showing them around and talking to them a lot during that first week of them being on campus. After that, we really just try to make sure they're coming along with us when we're doing stuff on the weekends; whether that's going to soccer games or volleyball games or whatever. We try to do everything together. You guys lost a lot of key people from last year's team. Do you see yourself stepping into a leadership role? Personally not really, at least vocally. I'm not a real vocal guy. I try to go out on the field and lead by example. Charlie Hessy is a guy that does a great job leading vocally.

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How do you stay relaxed when you're competing? It seems like that is very important for pitchers. I just try to stay within myself and take things one batter and one pitch at a time. You can be down in a count, but it only takes one pitch to change the whole at-bat. No game day rituals? I have a certain playlist that I listen to every game. As game time gets closer, I'll go to the pen to just be alone and stretch. That helps me sort of get into that calm mindstate. What's on that playlist? Some old Eminem, some old Drake and some old songs I have superstitions about.

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MARIE OLSON

Due to a season-ending injury, Marie Olson was only able to play in 10 games during her first season with the Bison. However, the Southern Methodist transfer showed a glimpse of why she was the 19th ranked forward in the country coming out of high school during a 72-69 win over Kansas. In the contest, Olson scored 11 points while collecting 8 rebounds. Assuming her recovery goes well, Olson will be a key contributor to an NDSU team that is set to make noise in the Summitt League.


CATCHING UP WITH THE STUDENT-ATHLETES FEATURED IN OUR 2020 RISE ISSUE.

KOBE JOHNSON

Kobe Johnson followed up a true freshman campaign that saw him run for 660 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 86 carries with a bit of a step back in the spring. During the spring, Johnson rushed for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns on 61 carries before going down with a knee injury. While 4.4 yards per carry is nothing to scoff at, Johnson will be the first to tell you that he is capable of more. He has shown that game breaking ability again this fall, toting the rock for 6.9 yards per carry and setting the NDSU record for longest play from scrimmage in the process.

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SYRA TANCHIN

Syra Tanchin built on a successful freshman campaign in which she was named to the Summit League All-Tournament Team by collecting the second most kills on the team during the 2020-2021 season. At the time of writing this article (November 1), Tanchin is 6th in the conference in kills, 12th in hitting percentage and 8th in points.

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Maleeck Harden-Hayes took a huge step forward this past season, starting 21 of the 22 games he appeared in. During that action, Harden-Hayes averaged 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. He is set to be a major factor on a very strong squad this season.

MALEECK HARDEN-HAYES

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Speaking Your Business Language for Over 45 Years Ser ving the Upper Midwest

For ward Thinking. Reliable Advice. 701-237-6022 wr.cpa



SWANY SAYS

BY JOSHUA A. SWANSON *Swanson is a native of Maddock, N.D., a proud NDSU alum and a lifelong Bison fan.

Give Me The Mouse Ears o long, James Madison. It was nice to know you. Few programs at our level cared as much about football as we did. You were one of the few and we’ll miss you. Safe travels, Sam Houston State, it was fun while it lasted, we had a few good rows, didn’t we? Jacksonville State. Your kind of like that awkward friend of a friend, of a friend, who’s cousin knew someone throwing the party. You showed up that one time, made a funny joke, we all laughed then forgot who you were. Sort of a head scratcher what you’re doing in this group, but congrats on the new gig, I suppose.

S

But Tarleton State? Tarleton Freaking State? No. That’s where I have to draw the line. They started playing 54

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in the FCS all of last year, in 2020, and had 4,110 fans show up for their late September win over New Mexico Highlands. That brawl was, I kid you not, TSU’s School of Kinesiology 100 Year Celebration bowl. They get invited to the FBS dance while North Dakota State can’t apparently get a sniff. The FCS is hemorrhaging its best members in recent years with Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, and Coastal Carolina all bolting for the FBS. Since 2015, Appalachian State has played in six bowl games–including twice in the New Orleans Bowl. New Orleans. Twice. Doesn’t that sound absolutely euphoric, Bison fans? Spending a few days in late December on Bourbon Street? Sign me up. Coastal Carolina has been ranked as high as No. 14 this fall in the FBS Top 25. Not the FCS Top 25, the FBS Top 25. Last fall, the Chanticleers–yes, the same Chanticleers that lost in consecutive FCS quarterfinal games at the Fargodome in 2013 and 2014–entered their bowl game as the No. 9-ranked team in the FBS! As of this writing, Coastal Carolina is the No. 21 team in

FBS, and has been in the FBS Top 25 for 21 straight weeks since October 2020. Georgia Southern–who NDSU beat in back-to-back national semifinal games in 2011 and 2012, known affectionately and longingly by Bison fans as “Georgia Southern I” and “Georgia Southern II”–has played in four bowl games, including one in Orlando and another in New Orleans! I’ll say it again, Bison fans. Would you mind spending a few winter days basking in the fun and sun in places like Disney World? Give me the mouse ears, and let’s stroll around the most magical place on earth, or at least in college football, the FBS. Even Old Dominion has played in a bowl game, flying to the tropics a few years back, winning the Bahamas Bowl. ODU, who was never very relevant in the FCS when the Herd started its run. Mark this down. It won’t be long before James Madison is playing in a bowl, a very good bowl. Same goes for Sam Houston. They might not ascend as fast as the Dukes, but they’ll be bowling while NDSU is playing Nicholls, Kennesaw


State, Furman, and Austin Peay in playoff snoozers. With FCS’s best programs departing for higher levels of competition, and the brighter lights of FBS, the FCS will soon boil down to a yearly game between NDSU and South Dakota State for a championship. And I don’t mean only a conference championship.

in the league would bring a nationally recognized brand known for churning out NFL talent. Or, being this is about college and academics do matter, I can tell you that NDSU is a Carnegie Research institution just like Mountain West schools Wyoming, Boise State, Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, and Utah State.

I understand that FCS stalwarts have to talk about the excitement in the subdivision. I don’t blame them. It’s their job. They say it’s never been stronger or had this following. But they’re selling you a sinking ship that’s taking on water faster than the Titanic. Soon, all that will be left are NDSU, SDSU, some years UNI, an Eastern Washington team that gets shelled nearly every year in the playoffs and two Montana schools that made two combined semifinal appearances since 2011. I suppose it gets a lot easier for the Grizzlies and Bobcats to be relevant now that everyone else is leaving the party. The rest of the big-time programs, like JMU, Sam Houston, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina have, or are, gone.

Did I mention, Craig Thompson, who happens to be the Commissioner of the Mountain West, that Fargo is often voted one of the top places to work and live in America, has major marquee employers… and potential corporate sponsorship opportunities from places like Microsoft, Scheels, Sanford Health and a ton of nationally known agrelated businesses, and even has a huge Amazon facility here. Did I tell you that Fargo has an international airport in Hector International Airport with direct flights from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix, and St. Pete that’s right across the street from the Fargodome. Yes, you can literally fly into a major airport directly from all these places, and land within a five-minute bus ride, right across 19th Avenue North, from where the Bison play football. And, while we’re at it, the Fargo metro area has a growing and thriving population of 250,000 diehard college football fans, whose median age is 31-years old. I could go on, and on, and on.

This isn’t an indictment as to why the Bison haven’t joined these programs. If I were Mountain West presidents, athletic directors, and coaches, I’d be damned scared, too, about letting NDSU in. We can boast of how well the Herd would travel, by the many, many thousands (just ask folks at Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas State, and of course Frisco, Texas) to away games in the league. Places like Colorado Springs, Colorado; Boise, Idaho; Fresno, California; Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada, San Diego and San Jose, California; and, of course, Laramie, Wyoming would be crawling every fall with Bison fans spending lots, and lots, of money in your stores, restaurants, and hotels. We can yell until we’re blue in the face about how having NDSU

Enough of my lamentation. While other programs in the FCS leave for the crazy fun and excitement in the FBS, we’re looking at a future of Dakota Marker rivalries, and playoff rematches, to determine the I-29, I mean, national champion. I’d rather be sitting at Disney World getting ready for a bowl game, give me the mouse ears. Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on!




BY Nolan P. Schmidt

6 More On The Rise I have my eyes on these Bison young guns in 2021-22.

orth Dakota State’s track record of success can be boiled down into one word: sustainability. They have been able to consistently recruit high-caliber student-athletes year after year, to the point that few universities in the country have the level of sustainable success that NDSU currently has. When one great departs, another budding star is beginning to etch their name in Bison athletics history. For every Ben Woodside there is a Taylor Braun. For every Easton Stick there is a Trey Lance. You get the picture…

N

That sustainability is on display in this very issue. These are the studentathletes of the future here in Fargo. It’s just like that old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the case of North Dakota State, it’s more than applicable. Here are some student-athletes that I think are on the rise…

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GRANT NELSON NDSU ATHLETICS

Grant Nelson

when needed. Not to mention Werner’s ability as a rebounder and defender.

The reigning Summit League Sixth Man of the Year reminds me a lot of a former Bison great Dexter Werner. While the size may not be comparable per se, I feel Nelson’s role and game is very reminiscent of Werner’s. A player who could go back to the basket and muscle smaller players into the paint, but could also step out and knock down a jumper

In many senses, Nelson carries a lot of those same qualities. While he may not be a true back-to-the-basket post, he possesses the size and skill to get to the rim and create his own shot at an efficient percentage. That is not even mentioning Nelson’s greatest asset, his length. Not only does this make him a sure-handed player on the glass (on both


ends), but it makes him an elite-level defender. Nelson’s 25 blocks in 27 games played last year are evidence of that. Needless to say, the 6-foot-11 Nelson has the ability to be the Summit League’s best overall defender. In just his sophomore season, there has to be a lot of buzz circling around this kid.

Andrew Morgan

At 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, Morgan has the size to complement NDSU’s other bigs in Rocky Kreuser and the aforementioned Nelson. The expectation is that Morgan will see some decent floor time in his true freshman season, creating a very daunting post lineup for the Bison. Obviously, as just a freshman, there is a lot to be learned about Morgan and his game. However, the size and tools he possesses make him a future star, without question.

While we have not seen (as of this writing) Morgan play in a Bison uniform yet, the hype is very much something to buy into. Last year’s Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota is one of the most highly-touted recruits the Bison have ever landed in men’s hoops.

ANDREW MORGAN NDSU ATHLETICS


COLE WISNIEWSKI TIM SANGER/NDSU ATHLETICS

KELLYN MARCH NDSU ATHLETICS

Cole Wisniewski Wisniewski has already established himself as a household name with Bison fans. Playing in all 10 games last spring, Wisniewski was a pivotal piece to Code Green. This included 22 total tackles and a nine-tackle game against Eastern Washington. So far in his sophomore campaign, he has continued to make an impact in NDSU’s stiff defense. Wisniewski has already accumulated 26 total tackles (18 of them solo) and a sack. This included an eight-tackle game in a huge home win over Missouri State on October 23. To have a player like Wisniewski step in right away during his freshman season is massive for NDSU’s “reload” mentality. Just think about it for a second, have the Bison had a significant hole at linebacker since 2010? Even so, when was the last time that was an issue for Bison football? Players like Cole Winiewski are why fans and pundits alike are never concerned about the Bison linebacking corp. They always find a way to succeed and players always seem to step up when called upon. Wisniewski is seeing the benefits of that now.

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Kellyn March As soon as I saw what Kellyn March did in his first match at NDSU, I knew he had the potential to be something special. Beating seventh-ranked Devan Turner of Oregon State in his first collegiate match only set the table for what was to come for March. He was able to snag two pinfall victories, one tech fall and one major decision in his true freshman campaign.

Assuming the 133-pound class after Bison great Cam Sykora left March with big shoes to fill, March won two matches at last season’s Big 12 championships and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Team. If that’s a small sampling of things to come for March, you have to feel good about your 133-pounder if you’re Roger Kish.


EMILY BEHNKE NDSU ATHLETICS

Emily Behnke

Nell Graham

We have not seen a ton of Behnke, being as she took a redshirt year two seasons ago. However, the sophomore played in 23 games last season, averaging eight minutes a game. What I like about Behnke’s game is her size and how efficient she can be as a scorer. At 6-foot-3, Behnke gives Jory Collins some size in a conference where that is most certainly an advantage.

The Dodge Center, Minn., native is one to watch on the track this upcoming season. Graham has been making an impact in the sprints since stepping foot on campus. As a true freshman, she placed sixth in the 400-meter dash at the Summit League Indoor Championships. Graham also ran on NDSU’s conference title 4x400-meter relay team that same season.

You can look and see that she did only play eight minutes a game last season. What jumps out to me is that despite those limited minutes, she snared 58 total rebounds, which was sixth on the roster. On the offensive end, Behnke shot an efficient 56 percent from the field which illustrates that she knows what a smart shot looks like. You can’t really coach efficiency and coaches like Jory Collins are always looking for the best shot possible on each possession. Look for Behnke to take on a bigger role and maybe see some crunch time minutes because of that.

After the outdoor season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham came back looking even stronger. She improved her personal-best 400-meter time during the indoor season. Graham also placed fourth in the 400-meter at the conference championships. In her first collegiate outdoor season, she placed third in the 400-meter at the Summit League Outdoor Championships. Currently, Graham has the eighth-best 400-meter time in North Dakota State history. That consistent improvement is most certainly a precursor to big successes for Nell Graham. That’s my slant.

NELL GRAHAM NDSU ATHLETICS


TEAM MAKERS

NDSU Giving Day is a one-day, online campaign that drives real-time conversation and inspires giving in support of NDSU. NDSU’s Giving Day will bring Athletics closer to alumni, parents, friends, and the larger community via their digital spaces.

Giving Day Featured Funds: Team Makers BAEF – Football BAEF – Baseball BAEF – Men’s Basketball BAEF – Men’s Golf BAEF – Men’s Track and Field

Giving Day 2021 will be held on Tuesday, November 30 and will feature 15 program specific Bison Athletic Excellence Funds and the Team Makers Fund. Bison Athletic Excellence Funds support program enhancements outside of scholarships. Team Makers supports student-athlete excellence by providing scholarship dollars to all 16 sport programs at NDSU. Bison Athletic Excellence Fund and the Team Makers Fund will have a challenge provided by a donor to inspire giving during Giving Day. The challenge (number of gifts) must be met before the gift to the fund is unlocked. For example:

BAEF – Wrestling BAEF – Softball BAEF – Soccer BAEF – Volleyball BAEF – Women’s Basketball BAEF – Women’s Golf

25 gifts to NDSU Baseball will unlock $5,000.

BAEF – Women’s Track and Field

Athletic Department staff, coaches, alumni, and friends and Team Makers leadership will raise awareness and build excitement on various social media platforms and personal digital spaces.

BAEF – Cheer

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BAEF – Athletic Academic Success BAEF – Strength and Conditioning