SMSU WRESTLING: SMSU’s Cortez Arredondo set to make first trip to National Wrestling Championships

Independent file photo SMSU’s Cortez Arredondo fights for control with his Northern State University opponent during their Jan. 19 match. Arredondo will be competing at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships this weekend.

MARSHALL – Last season, Cortez Arredondo had to sit and watch from afar as wrestlers around him earned a chance to compete at the NCAA Wrestling National Championships. This time, he’ll have a different perspective, as the Southwest Minnesota State University junior will be the Mustangs’ lone representative at the national tournament this weekend in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Arredondo, who will be making his first appearance at the national stage, said it was exciting to see his hard work pay off after coming up short as a sophomore.

“It was pretty exciting. It’s my first time obviously getting to the national tournament; I put together a pretty good tournament back at regions and I just wanted to get a couple of revenge matches back, some losses that I shouldn’t have gotten in the regular season. It was exciting to finally punch that ticket after coming up short and taking sixth at regions last year,” Arredondo said. “It was kind of a disappointment so I wanted to make sure I found my way to Cedar Rapids.”

This season, Arredondo made the decision to switch weight classes, jumping from 149 pounds to 157. The switch has paid off, as he had a successful campaign and posted a record of 20-9. Arredondo said he’s glad he made the decision to move to a different weight class and that it’s been less stressful of a season for him.

“It was a lot less of a roller coaster of a ride this year,” Arredondo said. “I started out the year at 149 (pounds) and in December I decided it wasn’t for me anymore so I bumped up in weight to get to 157 and take on the challenge of wrestling some of the better kids in the country at that weight. So far it’s panned out and I’ve got a couple more matches to fulfill my goals for the year.”

At the NCAA Super Region 3 Tournament in St. Cloud, the third-year Mustang strung together a key run by winning his first three matches in the tournament, including taking down the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the country in Larry Bomstad of St. Cloud State University with a thrilling 4-3 decision victory in the quarterfinals. Arredondo then advanced to the championship match before falling to Ryan Strope of McKendree University but punched his ticket with the second-place finish.

SMSU coach Jesse Nelson said going into the regional, they just wanted to take it one round at a time and stick to the gameplan and was excited to see him compete and do well against some of the top wrestlers in the region.

“Obviously we know it was a very tough region and it’s hard to qualify out of that region. It was also a tough weight bracket but I think we had a great gameplan going in and took it one round at a time,” Nelson said. “He had the opportunity to wrestle the No. 3 wrestler in the country in the quarterfinals and we put together a great gameplan and he executed. In the semifinals he was able to avenge a loss from earlier in the year. So there wasn’t an easy road and I’m very excited for him; he got hot at the right time and we’re definitely not satisfied yet and we want to get on the podium at the national tournament.”

Nelson said Arredondo has grown a lot over the last few years and has put in the time and effort to get where he’s at today.

“He’s a team captain and a great leader on and off the mat,” Nelson said. “He does a great job in the classroom and does everything you ask him to do, but I think he’s really spent the last couple of years really working hard in the summer and offseason to get where he’s at now.”

Arredondo said he’s appreciated the work that Nelson and the coaching staff put in to help develop him into the wrestler and person he is both on and off the mat.

“It’s been great. He’s really pushed on me and been on me to try and develop me into the man I am today. Also having Christian (Skillings) in here this year has helped. He’s really pushed me and tried to get me over that edge,” Arredondo said. “Overall, they’ve never given up on me and wanted me to be the best wrestler, student and person I can be, so I thank them for that.”

Arredondo will begin his national championship quest this morning and will face Nebraska-Kearney’s Matt Malcolm, who enters with a record of 17-5 and is currently ranked No. 11. They will square off starting at 11 a.m. at Session 1 before Session 2 takes place at 6 p.m. Arredondo said he’s looking forward to the first matchup and is excited to be there.

“The first match is pretty similar to some of the guys I compete against in the wrestling room which is nice. I’ve watched a couple of matches (of Matt) from his region tournament so I’m pretty excited for that match,” Arredondo said. “Whichever way it goes, it is what it is, I’m here to compete and I’m excited to put my name out there and hopefully get on that podium and become an All-American for the first time in my career.”

With the top eight wrestlers from each class coming away with NCAA All-American honors, Arredondo said he’s ready to get out on the mat and meet some new opponents and compete amongst the nation’s best.

“Just being able to compete with the best,” Arredondo said. “I’ve never wrestled most of these guys; I think I’ve only wrestled three of them and those were the guys that came out of our region, so it’ll be nice to wrestle some other guys and see some new faces and wrestle hopefully the best guys in the country.”