FARGO — It was just two years ago when Jared Franek was ripping through North Dakota high school wrestling competition like it was a bunch of junior high kids. At West Fargo, the owner of four state championships, there weren’t many challengers.
As expected, that changed when he got to North Dakota State. Last year, as a redshirt freshman, he went 10-2 wrestling unattached mostly at a couple of minor tournaments. This year?
Life on the mat has gotten real.
“It was going to be different going from being kind of the top dog in high school and beating up on everybody to coming in and getting beat up for the first few months,” Franek said. “It was a mental adjustment I had to make and I was able to do that pretty well.”
The adjustment last year came in practice, where the likes of Andrew Fogarty treated Franek like a tackling dummy. There were practices where Franek would go a long 15- to 20-minute period without scoring.
“And never even had a chance to score,” Franek said, “because he took advantage right away and then kept me down. It makes you think about it and motivates me because it’s a terrible feeling.”
Franek called it a “humbling” situation.
“Humbled is probably a good word for it,” said NDSU head coach Roger Kish. “He’s at where he is now because of those workouts and training cycles to push him and help him understand there is another level of wrestling and intensity he has to learn to wrestle at.”
Intensity for NDSU on Friday night comes in the form of the University of Oklahoma in a Big 12 Conference wrestling dual at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. The Bison, 3-3, will be aiming to rebound from a deflating 34-6 home loss to the University of Wyoming two weeks ago.
Franek had one of those victories in a season when he’s faced most of the top wrestlers in his 157-pound division. He’s 16-6, 4-2 in duals, with wins over three ranked wrestlers. He’s also been soundly beaten by the Nos. 2, 3 and 7 wrestlers in the country.
“The top two guys I struggled against,” Franek said. “They were on another level but obviously I have to keep closing the gap to that.”
That gap on Friday will be against No. 16 Justin Thomas of Oklahoma. Franek is not ranked, but he’s hoping to change that. Fogarty is ranked ninth at 165, Cam Sykora is No. 10 at 133, Brandon Metz is 27th at 285 pounds and Lorenzo De La Riva is ranked 32nd at 174.
The senior Fogarty is 12-2, 5-0 in duals, with four pins and three victories by technical fall. The Sooners counter with five guys ranked between ninth and 21st. So the match looks close on paper.
“We have to find a way to win the close matches that we anticipate,” Kish said.
Franek was close against No. 7 Kendall Coleman of Purdue, losing 8-6 in overtime. He dropped another OT decision to No. 19 Jacori Teemer of Arizona State and lost 4-1 to No. 28 Matt Zovistiski of Appalachian State.
He does own wins over No. 27 Carson Brolsma of Minnesota and No. 33 Colton Yapoujian of Cornell.
“Obviously I wanted to get a few wins against some of these guys,” Franek said, “but came up short and I need to get better. But it’s awesome knowing that I’m right there with some of these guys. I’ve seen the top five or six guys in the country now so I know where I need to be.”