The Bishop Ryan wrestling team accomplished one thing last season it hadn't in a while.
This year, the Lions would like to pin down another goal.
The dual squad made the program's first Class B state tournament since 2003, but convincing losses to Lisbon and North Border-Cavalier sent Ryan home without placing. A repeat performance won't be good enough for Lions coach Chase Lee.
Bishop Ryan senior wrestler Ben Mayer tosses junior Braden Kalamaha during a practice at Bishop Ryan High School on Monday.
"I would say that there are greater expectations at least from my point of view," Lee said. "I do expect my team to qualify as a dual team and I expect us to finish top five this year."
The Lions, who beat Harvey-Wells County and lost to Hazen-Beulah to start their season, return a few individual state qualifiers from a year ago who will try to execute Lee's plans.
Ben Mayer's second year on the team was much different than his first. As a sophomore, Mayer won just one match. Last season, he had 19 wins before dropping his two individual bouts at state.
Mayer, who also runs track, said he started the sport only after Lee "came up to me in the hallway and kept talking to me until I went in" and that he wants to drop a weight class sometime within the next couple of weeks. Mayer, 2-0 this season, spent last year at the 152-pound class.
"It's a mindset," he said. "You have to be determined and you have to have some willpower to get there."
Also trying to drop down is junior Keaton Merck. Merck has qualified for state three times in his four years on the team but has failed to win a bout there. To change that this season, Merck - 1-1 at 145 this year - will strive to get to 138 by Christmas.
Merck - whose dad, Daniel Merck, owns the ATA Martial Arts in Minot - is trained in Gracie jiu-jitsu. He said his dad forced him to take up wrestling because the sport would improve his jiu-jitsu abilities. But it does have its differences.
"In wrestling, you're more full-out for the whole six minutes," Keaton Merck said. "In jiu-jitsu you're waiting for your opponent to make the wrong move and reacting to that and getting them into a bad position. It's a lot more moves than wrestling and a lot more moves to master. But I'd say wrestling is much more vigorous because you're constantly going at it for six minutes."
New to the Ryan wrestling program is junior Mason Kramer. The football, baseball and basketball standout (he'll wrestle and play basketball this winter) didn't have enough practices under his belt to participate in the season-opening triangular. But the heavyweight has done enough in a few short workouts to draw high expectations from his coach.
"It's been amazing watching him the first three days of practice," Lee said. "He's been picking things up real quick. He's a big, strong kid. I think he'll have real quick success and I expect him to be phenomenal for us his senior year."
Ryan travels to Velva for an individual tournament at 10 a.m. on Saturday.