Campbell, Jimmies start freshAfter a season ruined by injuries and ineligibilities, C.J. Campbell knew things needed to change in the Jimmie men’s wrestling program. Campbell, starting his second season as head coach, needed to add wrestlers to the room, and get things cleaned up in the classroom.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
After a season ruined by injuries and ineligibilities, C.J. Campbell knew things needed to change in the Jimmie men’s wrestling program.
Campbell, starting his second season as head coach, needed to add wrestlers to the room, and get things cleaned up in the classroom.
Recruiting-wise he took care of the numbers problem, bringing in 22 recruits. Not all stuck it out, but the size of the team has increased to 27 athletes.
Not all problems have been solved, however. They’re still trying to get everybody in good academic standing.
“This year, we’re not taking any chances. Everybody has to be above par in terms of their grades. Anything below a C won’t cut it and won’t wrestle,” Campbell said. “We have to hold our guys accountable. They’re here to succeed athletically, but also academically and we’re not going to bend on that.”
Despite some early academic issues, the depth Campbell brought in should start to pay dividends right away. When the Jimmies open the season on Sunday at the Daktronics Open at South Dakota State in Brookings. Campbell is excited about the team he’ll put on the mat.
“We’ll be a work in progress, but we have some outstanding wrestlers on our team. I’m really optimistic about what our guys are capable of,” he said.
Leading the way are seniors Sean Blumhardt at 103 pounds, Sam Brown at 149 and 165-pounder Marlon Branson.
Blumhardt, the former Ellendale standout, earned All-American honors in 2010, but chose to redshirt last season. Brown and Branson are both national qualifiers.
“Those guys bring lots of quality in terms of how they wrestle, but also very good leadership,” Campbell said.
The Jimmies should be very solid at 157. Campbell had high praise for Jaykob Miller’s work ethic. He’ll get the nod to begin with, but Michael Nord, a four-time state champion at Lisbon is lurking and getting his grades in order.
Michael’s brother Pat, a mainstay in the lineup since his freshman season, might sit out the season, but if he chooses to compete, is a definite All-American candidate. In fact, Campbell said several Jimmies could be in contention for the award if things break their way.
“If the chips fall right and the stars align we could have as many as seven All-Americans,” Campbell said.
Campbell is high on freshmen Dillon Kifer (141) and Eddy Wilson (133), both of whom will be in the lineup. Antonio Lopez will likely be bumped up to heavyweight after New Year’s, but in the meantime there will be holes in the lineup for their first home meet on Thursday against the University of Regina. They might have to forfeit at 133, 197 and heavyweight.
“We’re going to have some ups and downs and it’s not going to be a drama-free year,” Campbell said. “Ultimately, we could finish in the top 10 or the bottom 10.”
Despite some early-season issues Campbell is unquestionably optimistic. He also was very pleased with the contributions of new assistant coach Dan Lovell.
“He’s a great asset to the program,” Campbell said. “When you look at the big picture, I definitely feel like as a program we have things going in the right direction.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com