Local wrestlers aim to make an impact at state
The end of the wrestling season draws near with state championships waiting to be claimed. Three days of Class A and Class B action inside the Fargodome will settle another grueling campaign.
Local wrestlers from around the region are hoping for a memorable conclusion to the 2017-18 season.
The West Region runner-up Magicians come in as the defending team individual champions. Out of 14 wrestlers competing individually, Minot has 12 seeded wrestlers.
“I think there is (a chance to repeat),” MHS coach Justin Racine said. “Bismarck is the team to beat. They have the firepower. But, if we have a good state tournament and get six guys into finals, maybe they slip up a bit, then we should be right on their heels. We can’t get too buried like we did last year because I don’t think we are going to have the team to come back like we did.”
The Magi are led by the Armstrong brothers Brody and Kelby, who both enter the state tournament as top seeds.
Brody, the WDA Senior Athlete of the Year with a record of 45-3, is a two-time state champion (2016 at 120 pounds and 2017 at 126 pounds) and moved up another weight class this season to compete at 132 pounds this weekend.
He attempts to etch his name in history next to Tom Lowe (1967-69), Josh Krebs (1994-96) and Derek Bischof (1996-97, 1999) as the only Minot High wrestlers to ever win three state championships.
“It’s something I have been looking at in the wrestling room for years,” Brody Armstrong said. “Seeing my name up there with people I really look up to would be amazing.”
Younger sophomore brother Kelby at 106 is gunning for his first individual state championship, just like the rest of the Magi.
One of the underdog, feel good stories of the season belongs to senior Creighton Rudolph.
Sitting out most of the season after significantly injuring his left arm at the Sidney Eagle Invite on Dec. 1, Rudolph (4-3 overall) took second at the WDA tournament and comes into the state tourney as the No. 2 seed at 170.
“There were a lot of doubts as to whether I could get back or not because we initially received some negative news,” Rudolph said. “I’ve been working out and trying to stay in whatever shape I could be. But, it’s been a quick transition… That’s the goal at the start of the year (to be a state champion). Then, you get hit a devastating blow and you got to have some mental toughness, so to be able to come back is a good thing not only for me but also helps the team.”
Rudolph’s return fills a crucial vacancy in Minot’s lineup for the team dual portion. The Magi will face East Region No. 3 Fargo Davies in the first round at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We have beat all the teams on our side of the bracket, so the expectation is to get to the finals,” Racine said. “(WDA No. 1) Bismarck is a tough team, but anything can happen when you get into those situations. There are upsets, but you got to be there though and be in a position to get that upset.”
The Magi do have a realistic chance to get six guys into individual finals with three more wrestlers holding No. 3 seeds: Trevon McClanahan (37-12 at 138), Jacob Mortensen (28-4 at 152) and Elijah Huff (45-5 at 285).
“I got seeded third, but seedings don’t matter to me,” said Huff, the 285-pound WDA tournament winner. “I’m going to give everything that I got because this is it. Being a senior and going to play college football (at Bemidji State), this is the last time I’m going to be on the mat.”
Other Minot wrestlers looking to place and pick up valuable points: No. 5 Samuel Goodman (113), No. 5 Corey Hooker (120), No. 5 Wyatt Willenbring (220), No. 6 Hunter Swartwout (220), No. 8 Chase Burke (126), No. 8 Preston Jones (195), Jorge Talamantes (182) and Jacob Carmichael (170).
The Aggies knocked off Bishop Ryan for both the Region 3 dual tournament and team individual titles.
As a reward, Velva was given the No. 5 seed for the team dual and were matched up with No. 4 Carrington. Ryan, unseeded, was paired up with No. 1 Lisbon.
The Aggies bolster three Region 3 bracket winners in No. 2-seeded Jon Thomas (152), No. 4 Gunnar Mogen (106) and Wyatt Hanson (195).
They also return two state place winners from last season in Thomas (fourth at 152) and No. 5 Brock Selzler (eighth at 170).
Velva has 13 wrestlers competing individually. Others to keep an eye on: No. 7 Kutter Blumhagen (285), No. 8 Michael Thomas (145) and Elizabeth Massine (113).
The Lions, lacking some depth compared to previous seasons, still have talent at the top and guys capable of pulling upsets in the individual tournament.
“If we can wrestle above our seeds and get some of the guys that aren’t seeded on the podium, then that’s what it’s going to take for us to break into the Top 5,” Ryan coach Steve Lipp said. “We aren’t as strong as last year with some of those horses that we had who made the finals and won state titles. So, points are hard to come by at the state tournament and you just got to be ready to go.”
Getting No. 1 Lisbon in the team dual portion is also going to test the Lions’ resolve.
“It’s going to be tough and I think it’s going to come down to the toss-up matches,” Ryan senior Conner Ledoux said. “We will definitely have to win those to have a chance at taking them down,”
No. 2-seeded Ledoux, Region 3 winner at 113 and placed seventh at state last year, holds Ryan’s best seed with a 46-3 record this season.
The Lions have three other state place winners returning from last year in No. 4 Corbin Okeson at 182 (eighth in 2017), No. 6 Kersey Harris at 132 (second at 106 in 2017) and No. 6 Kaleb Beeter at 145 (sixth at 138 in 2017).
“You just can’t overlook anyone,” Okeson said. “You got to treat everyone the same. Every match starts at 0-0. I just want a Top 4, work up to my seed and maybe even better.”
Harris will have his work cut out for him at 132.
“It’s one of the toughest, deepest weight classes in the state,” Lipp said. “There are two state champions and three runners-up in that weight class, and he is one of those guys that was a runner-up last year.”
Other Ryan wrestlers competing individually: No. 8 Cody Luck (160), No. 8 JJ Johannsen (170), Keegan Henjum (285), Brenden Daves (195), Wesley Harvey (106) and Hayden Schall (152).
Others to watch
No. 1 seeds: Rugby’s DJ Schneibel (285 pounds).
No. 2: Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark’s Colton Miller (160).
No. 3: Harvey/Wells Country’s Isaac Felchle (113), Rugby’s Riley Zachmeier (126), Rugby’s Joey Berg (138), DLB’s Coy Spooner (170), New Town/Parshall’s Bronson Flynn (220).
No. 4: DLB’s Kaiden Bredahl (138), DLB’s Colton Bartuska (152), HWC’s Bailey Lawson (220).
No. 5: DLB’s Walter Winkler (145).
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.