Jimi Bridges lost in the 170-pound quarterfinals of the Class B state individual wrestling tournament last season, but still managed to accomplish something remarkable.
The lanky grappler from Velva fought through the consolation bracket to place third. While that feat is not unusual, the manner in which Bridges earned his way that high onto the podium was.
"No one scored a point on him," Velva coach Chad Barstad said of Bridges' run after his quarterfinal defeat. "Against the best wrestlers in the state, that's pretty unheard of."
MDN File Photo
Velva’s Jimi Bridges pins a Hettinger-Scranton opponent during a Class B state dual tournament quarterfinal last February at the Bismarck Civic Center. Now a senior, Bridges enters this week’s state tournament as the No. 1 seed in the 182-pound individual bracket.
If Bridges has his way this weekend, the consolation bracket will be out of the question.
The senior enters Thursday's tournament as the top-seeded 182-pounder in the state. The only blemish on his 30-1 record came at the hands of Stanley-Powers Lake-Tioga-Ray's Abe Roehrich, who is undefeated (28-0) and the top seed in the 170-pound division.
"I've wrestled pretty much everybody in my weight class," said Bridges, who will face May-Port-C-G senior Alex Kleven in the first round. "I'm feeling confident in my ability. I'm really excited and looking to make the most out of my opportunity here."
If Bridges follows his career trajectory, he'll at least be in the final match. He placed eighth at state as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and third last season.
Barstad described Bridges as a deceptively strong athlete.
"You look at him out there and you think he's kind of stringy, but he's extremely powerful," Barstad said. "Once he gets a hold of the wrist, there's not too many kids in the state who can pull it away."
That vice-grip, coupled with Bridges' length, makes his favorite move - the cradle - an extremely potent weapon. Bridges said his long arms allow him to connect the move and pull it tighter.
In addition to Bridges' quality skill set, Barstad said his wrestler has the ideal disposition to perform well on the state's largest stage.
"Jimi's pretty focused any time he gets into the arena," Barstad said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Velva tournament or the state tournament. He's pretty focused when he's wrestling and he doesn't care who it's against."
Bridges hopes to wrestle for Minot State University next season and major in computer science. He said computer programming intrigues him because the codes are always changing and there is always something to learn.
This weekend, though, Bridges hopes to ace his final test as a high school wrestler by simply letting his training and experience take over.
"The more I get in these situations, the more I know how to react and it helps me become a better wrestler," Bridges said. "I can just go on instinct and it's a lot less thinking."