Crosby-Ironton High School graduate Hayden Zillmer is a redshirt freshman for the No. 22-ranked North Dakota State University Bison wrestling team.
The three-time Class 1A state champion competed unattached last season and posted a 21-5 record with three pins.
This season, the 149-pound wrestler owns a 9-8 record with four pins. He is 3-3 in duals for the 5-7 Bison.
Zillmer and the Bison open Western Wrestling Conference action Friday against Air Force and then face Wyoming Saturday.
■ Q: Was it strange to be wrestling unaffiliated last season?
A: It was kind of weird. The practice was the same you work out with the team, but you just wouldn’t wrestle with them. You would go to a tournament and you wouldn’t part of the team — you would be unaffiliated. That was all right, though. It’s nice being on the starting squad.
■ Q: Your best quality in high school was your work ethic. Has that increased at college?
A: It’s been the same. I keep my workout routine. I work out before and after practice. My work ethic hasn’t changed at all.
■ Q: What are some differences from wrestling in college to high school?
A: Just the intensity. Every day you don’t bring your best you can get beat up on. If you’re not bringing everything every day, something is going to happen. Everyone in the practice room is tough and is going to beat you. You have to think that way. You can’t have a bad day. You need to have your best day ever every day.
■ Q: You competed and won your match against then top-ranked University of Minnesota Nov. 24. You decisioned Brad Doezal at 157 pounds. I remember when you were in high school you really wanted to wrestle for the Gophers. Did that win mean a little more to you?
A: No, I just thought of it as another match. Our team lost, but we had a close dual with them. I took it as just another match. It was fun to beat them, though.
■ Q: On that same day you wrestled former high school teammate David Booth and pinned him. What was that like? (Booth is a member of the Itasca Community College wrestling team.)
A: It was fun. I just went out there and I really didn’t think about pinning him. He was always bigger than me in high school. It was fun to wrestle against him.
■ Q: In what ways have you improved as a wrestler?
A: I’ve gotten bigger. I would have to say just in every aspect even mentally and just getting stronger. We lift weights a lot here so I’ve gotten a lot stronger in that way.
■ Q: Did you take in any NDSU football games this season? (The Bison won the FCS national championship Jan. 5).
A: No. I didn’t make it to any games. I was always too late to get a ticket.
■ Q: Your conference schedule is coming up and then its the postseason. What does the rest of the season look like for you?
A: My goals are to win my last few matches and make the national tournament.