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DSU wrestling joins new conference

The Dickinson State wrestling team is joining the Heart of America Conference, according to a press release, Wednesday.

Instead of a regional format, NAIA wrestling now follows a conference format to qualify for the national meet, so the Blue Hawks will face the same teams in the conference competition that they did in the central region.

By becoming a conference-affiliated team, and no longer remaining independent, athletes will have the opportunity to earn all-conference athletic awards.

Another change will be how athletes qualify for the national tournament. While the top three of each regional used to advance, a new ranking system will come into play, making strength of schedule a factor. Therefore, five players from a strong conference could advance while only one from a weaker conference would.

"The biggest benefit will be the strength of competition inside of that conference and that will allow ... our essential 'bubble kids' into the national tournament and getting a good spot in the national bracket," head coach Justin Schlecht said.

The Blue Hawks will compete with the likes of Baker University (Kan.), Avila University (Mo.) and William Penn University (Iowa) in their conference tournament, but will still face schools such as Minot State and University of Jamestown during the regular season.

"It doesn't affect any of our previous schedule," Schlecht said. "When we were working on this process it has not changed our schedule at all. What it has done is allocated more opportunities when we get into February and March."

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