Eight years ago this weekend, Cody Haugen, a fourth-grader at the time, collected a memory that fueled one of the more brilliant wrestling careers at Minot High.
At the 2005 state wrestling tournament the pint-sized Haugen looked on in wonderment as his brother, Levi, a 152-pound senior at Bishop Ryan, became North Dakota's second-ever five-time state champion.
It was the same tournament where Levi set the state record for most wins in a career (234), a mark that still stands today.
Minot High School senior Cody Haugen, the top-ranked 145-pounder in the state, leads the Magicians into the Class A state wrestling tournament beginning today in Fargo.
Those gaudy accolades were enough for any younger sibling to revere and, naturally, Cody was envisioning his own spot atop the podium a near-decade down the road.
"As a kid I remember watching him win state," Haugen said. "And ever since then it's been my goal to win (a state title)."
He'll get his final chance when Minot opens the Class A wrestling tournament today at 11 a.m. at the Fargodome. The Magicians, the No. 4 seed out of the West Region, face off with East No. 1 West Fargo in the dual quarterfinals.
Haugen (42-4), the top-ranked 145-pounder in his bracket, opens up the individual portion of the tournament against Fargo South freshman Augustus Siaway (2-9).
This time Haugen is looking to catch the white whale that's eluded him most of his career.
With two third-place and fourth-place finishes to his name, Haugen's entered the last four state tournaments as a viable contender only to fall a match short.
A swan song without that elusive title would leave a sizable void considering what the wiry redhead has already accomplished.
Haugen set the Minot High career pins record (75) and his 148-46 record ranks him second all-time in school history. He's also just shy of the single-season pins record (28) for his weight with 26 this season, a record that could be eclipsed by Saturday.
He's held the No.1 ranking in his class the majority of the season. Last year, at 132 pounds, he was No. 2 going into the state tourney before being upset in the semifinals.
He took out his frustration in the third-place match, pinning his opponent in 43 seconds.
"There's nobody I want to see win a state title more Cody," Minot coach Nolan Spooner said. "He deserves it. He's been through the wars."
Growing up in a wrestling-crazed family, Haugen, the youngest of three children, was born into the rigorous sport. His father, Lance Haugen, was even a Minot High grappler in the late 1970s.
Lance also helped run the Dakota Rattlers youth wrestling club.
"Our family gets pretty into it," said Cody Haugen, who also started at safety for the MHS football team. "We've all wrestled. Even my sister wrestled when she was younger."
The early push and family influence paid dividends, though, as Haugen caught the eye of Minot High coaches in elementary school. By the time was he was an eighth grader he'd already locked down a varsity slot - a starting role, even.
"As a junior-high kid we knew he was tough," Spooner said. "He was the kind of kid you build a program around."
Spooner also considers Haugen the model teammate.
"The younger kids look up to him," Spooner said. "He's always working hard and he's having fun. Other kids see that and feed off that."
Haugen has received interest from a handful of NCAA Division II and NAIA programs, but hasn't made a concrete decision on whether he'll even wrestle in college.
He's come to grips with the fact that this could very well be his last outing, and he wants to make it a memorable one.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions," Haugen said. "It's sad, because I'm going to miss (my teammates). I'm also just trying to go about it the same as any other tournament. I'm preparing the same way."