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Solid nucleus for U-Mary

TOM STROMME/Tribune

U-Mary’s John DeVito, left, is looking for a strong senior season after struggling with injuries throughout his collegiate wrestling career.

John DeVito is hoping to make the most of his final season in the University of Mary wrestling program.

Paul Michaelson, however, is a newcomer to the Marauders. His goal is to help coach Adam Aho build the sport.

Aho believes that both agendas will bode well for the Marauders as they get set to open up the 2014-15 season. U-Mary begins on Sunday at the Warren Williamson Open in Brookings, S.D.

The pair of grapplers bring different looks to the program. DeVito, a 184-pounder, is from Glendive, Ariz., and has battled some injuries off and on throughout his career. Two years ago he suffered a season-ending knee injury and last season he battled a bum ankle.

“He’s coming off a below average season, but he’s much better than his record shows,” Aho said.

Michaelson, who will wrestle at 157 or 165 pounds, is a well-known North Dakota name and was a standout in football and wrestling at Williston.

“One of the focuses last year in my first year recruiting was getting local kids,” Aho said. “Getting a guy like him helps our reputation. Not only is he a good wrestler, but he’s a standout guy.”

DeVito brought a different approach to wrestling to U-Mary.

“Where he comes from, they have a totally different style than we do in the Midwest,” Aho said. “We wrestle in a more of a moving forward attacking style. We’re physical. We want our hands on our opponent. We want to be banging on people’s heads.

“Where John is from, they like to shoot from the open a lot. They like to be on their feet in a neutral position. They don’t wrestle a lot on the mat. It’s more on their feet.”

DeVito noticed the contrasting styles when he set foot on campus.

“Up here you find a lot of kids that more more defensively,” said DeVito, an athletic training major. “Where I’m from you always have to get that first take down. Up here it’s more of a grind match where the kids are beating on each other.”

DeVito has mixed both styles together and believes the contrasting methods complement each other.

“I’m starting to adapt to the (Midwest) style,” he said. “I feel like it fits in perfectly to what I’m doing already.”

Aho hasn’t tried to change DeVito’s approach.

“If they want to be an open-style wrestler, and they are successful at it, do it,” Aho said. “If it’s not working, I’m going to challenge them to change or try something else. It’s like anything in the world. If you’re not successful doing something, maybe you need to figure out a different way to do it.”

DeVito has bumped up a weight class from last season, a move that should benefit him.

“He won’t be worried about making weight,” Aho said. “He will be more worried about being a better wrestler, which is good.

“I don’t think he cut weight correctly, and that hurt him when he went out and tried to compete. There’s the mental aspect of managing your weight. Some people can handle it and some can’t.”

DeVito would like to earn his first trip to the national tournament.

“If that doesn’t happen, I want to try to become more of a leader than I am already,” he said.

Michaelson attended Minot State last season but didn’t compete. He, instead, coached wrestling at Minot Ryan.

Michaelson wanted a break from competition. He dislocated his right arm at regional competition his senior year of high school.

He wanted time to heal.

“Doing all those sports takes a toll on your body,” said Michaelson, a biology major. “When you get burned out from wrestling you’re kind of out of it for awhile.”

Time off was what he needed.

“I got to relax for the first time,” he said. “I lifted and did my own conditioning.”

He has a new appreciation for the sport after coaching it.

“Coaching is a lot tougher than I thought it would be,” he said. “To be a good coach, you have to be disciplined and know a lot. I want to coach when I’m older and it has shown me a lot.”

Michaelson has been a positive addition to U-Mary’s wrestling room.

“People want to be around him,” Aho said. “Everybody looks up to him, even though he’s a young guy on the team. He’s a guy you can build your program around. He’s one of those guys who has that ‘it factor’ you look for in a guy. It’s not easy to find these days.”

Michaelson is eager for the season to begin.

“I’m hoping to win a lot of matches and improve,” he said. “I’m hoping to build our team a lot.”

Reach reporter Cindy Peterson at 701-250-8245 or cindy.peterson@bismarcktribune.com.

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