Sports

Midlands notes: Tanner Sloan starts strong for South Dakota State

Steiert, Lugo top point scorers in first session; Blockhus, Biscoglia get upset wins

Tanner Sloan (left) shoots in on a takedown against Fresno State's Josh Hokit in the second round of Northwestern's Midlands Championships on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Sloan, a former Alburnett prep and freshman at South Dakota State, recorded a 5-4 victory. (Wyatt Schultz/The Predicament)
Tanner Sloan (left) shoots in on a takedown against Fresno State's Josh Hokit in the second round of Northwestern's Midlands Championships on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Sloan, a former Alburnett prep and freshman at South Dakota State, recorded a 5-4 victory. (Wyatt Schultz/The Predicament)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Tanner Sloan wasn’t sure what to expect after the first week.

The two-time Alburnett state champion had to get adjusted to the college level. Any doubts quickly subsided.

“Once I started rolling around and figuring things out I knew I was going to have a good season,” Sloan said. “With the coaches I have, I knew it was going to be fun.”

Sloan has impressed in his redshirt season, reaching the quarterfinals of Northwestern’s Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at Sears Centre Arena. The 197-pound freshman improved to 17-1 this season, beating seeded wrestlers in his first three matches.

“He continues to improve,” South Dakota State Coach Damion Hahn said. “The best thing about Tanner is his perspective and how he approaches competition.”

Hahn praised Sloan’s work ethic and his ability to wrestle the same way in competition that he does in the practice room. It helped him overcome Fresno State’s 10th-seeded Josh Hokit, 5-4, with a late escape. Sloan pulled away from No. 7 seed Brandon Whitman, 10-3, scoring the final seven points in the third round.

Sloan then knocked off Iowa's No. 2 seed Jacob Warner by technical fall in the quarterfinals and will wrestle in Sunday's semifinals.

 

“He has this demeanor that nothing fazes him,” Hahn said. “In some of the matches, he’s had some tight ones. For a true freshman, his composure is really good.”

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“I have nothing to lose out here,” Sloan said. “Wrestle hard in the room and practice like you’re going to wrestle out here. That is what I try to do.”

Sloan has won open tournaments at Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and Buena Vista. He was second in his home open to start the season. The work he has put in with Hahn and assistant coaches Cody Caldwell and Cam Simaz has shown against opponents.

“I have nothing to lose out here,” Sloan said. “Wrestle hard in the room and practice like you’re going to wrestle out here. That is what I try to do.

“Wrestling on the mat. Bottom is huge. We talk about that all the time and being dominant on top, too. I feel mat wrestling is a different level from high school.””

Sloan wasn’t a slam dunk to even be at South Dakota State. He originally committed to SDSU Coach Chris Bono, who left to become the head coach at Wisconsin. Hahn credits Caldwell, a former Waverly-Shell Rock and UNI wrestler, for keeping Sloan interested.

“I gave those coaches a chance and I bought in right away,” Sloan said. “I like it and I’m going to stay there.”

Hahn didn’t get his hands on Sloan until late summer. He said he felt Sloan could be special and now he’s even a little ahead of the curve.

“The work ethic that he has and he’s got some other things other people don’t have,” Hahn said. “The demeanor, how he approaches competition. He’s going to be all right.”

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Sloan is wrestling unattached and cannot have SDSU coaches in his corner. He turned to a familiar face — his former Alburnett Coach and Coe national champion Clayton Rush.

“He asked me to coach him,” Rush said. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Points producers

After the opening session of the Midlands Championships, two wrestlers scored more team points than all other wrestlers. Both had ties to the state of Iowa.

Iowa’s Pat Lugo and UNI’s Bryce Steiert each accounted for 8 1/2 team points in the opening session. Fifth-seeded Lugo reached the 149-pound quarterfinals with a pin, technical fall and an injury default victory over Maryland’s Ryan Diehl.

Steiert recorded two pins with a technical fall sandwiched between them. He decked Kellen Ekern, an unattached wrestler from Old Dominion, in 1:16 to reach the 165 quarterfinals. Steiert had the most falls in the least amount of time of the first session, finishing in a total of 3:24.

Iowa was well in front in the team race after the first session with 59 1/2 points. UNI was third with 36, trailing Princeton by a half-point.

Upset-minded Panthers

Four UNI freshman are wrestling unattached and two of them produced upsets.

Former New Hampton prep Michael Blockhus was dominant early, posting a 15-3 major decision over Rutgers’ sixth-seeded Mike Vanbrill at 141. Blockhus followed it with a 6-4 decision in sudden victory against Princeton’s Marshall Keller to reach the quarterfinals.

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The Panthers’ Kyle Biscoglia, also unseeded, defeated Old Dominion’s No. 7-seed Michael McGree, 7-5, in sudden victory at 125.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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