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Title chasers

Previewing the high school wrestling state tournament

Justin Martinez/MDN Minot High junior Kelby Armstrong (top) goes for the fall during the Magicians’ 66-12 win over Watford City on Nov. 20.

All roads lead to the Fargodome.

The regular season is in the books, and the best high school wrestlers North Dakota has to offer are clashing in Fargo for the Class A and Class B wrestling state tournament. Here’s in depth look at some of the competitors:

Class A

Right in the mix of the Class A dual tournament is the Minot High School wrestling team. The four-seeded Magicians will take on the East Region’s No. 1 seed, West Fargo, today at 11 a.m.

The Packers enter the tournament after finishing third as a team at the Class A East Region individual tournament on Saturday and boast a loaded roster of 15 individual state competitors, giving the Magi a daunting opening-round challenge.

“We’re hoping that our guys come out and are aggressive,” MHS head coach Justin Racine said. “They’re going to have to get after it right away instead of sitting back and waiting for things to happen. I told them, ‘If you want it, go take it.'”

In addition to the dual, Minot will have 13 wrestlers competing individually.

Leading the way for the Magi is Kelby Armstrong. The junior will be in search of his second state title after earning his first championship at 106 pounds last season. Now the top seed at 113 pounds, Armstrong will begin his run against West Fargo Sheyenne’s Alexander Spray.

Another wrestler with hopes of an individual state title run is junior Trevon McClanahan. After placing third last year at 138 pounds, the junior enters this tournament as the second seed at 145 pounds and will take on Devils Lake’s Brayden Gerhardt.

The Magi are returning another two wrestlers who placed last season.

Senior Samuel Goodman will look to build off his fifth-place finish at 113 pounds last year as he competes as the No. 7 seed at 132 pounds this time around. And, after finishing sixth at 126 pounds last year, sophomore Chase Burke is slated to be the No. 3 seed at 160 pounds.

It’s these seasoned wrestlers that the Magi plan to lean on for guidance as the group attempts to return from Fargo with a number of place winners yet again.

“Obviously those guys have some experience, and I think that’s huge,” Racine said. “They’re able to help some of the younger guys, take them under their wing and show them what they need to do. We’re banking on that.”

Also competing individually is a trio of junior Jacob Carmichael (182 pounds), senior Jorge Talamantes (195 pounds) and junior Preston Jones (220 pounds). All three wrestlers failed to place at last season’s state tournament but enter this year’s tournament in peak form.

Carmichael placed second in Saturday’s Class A West Region tournament, while Talamantes finished third and Jones took home fourth in their respective weight classes. The trio will look to carry that success into Fargo.

“All three of those guys were one round away from placing last year,” Racine said. “It really gives them some extra motivation, and hopefully they can put that motivation to work this time around.”

The remaining Magi wrestlers competing individually are Davian Rios (120), Victor Garcia (120), David Schulze (126), Jordin Lennon (160), Isaac Fernandez (170) and Asher Woods (285).

Class B

One team to keep an eye out for in the Class B team dual tournament is Velva.

Although the Aggies enter the tournament unranked and must face No. 3 New Salem-Almont today at 1:30 p.m. in the opening round, the group has plenty of momentum on its side. Velva took home first place at the Region 3 individual tournament on Saturday, besting fellow state competitor Bishop Ryan in the process.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Velva head coach Chad Barstad said. “We had a pretty good regional tournament, and we’re definitely trending in the right direction.”

The Aggies will also have nine wrestlers competing individually. Among those wrestlers, two of them placed at last year’s state tournament.

Then-freshman Gunnar Mogen took fourth place at 106 pounds, and he’ll be the No. 2 seed at 113 pounds this year. Then-junior Kutter Blumhagen also had success at state last season, placing seventh at 285 pounds. He’ll now be the No. 7 seed at 285 pounds.

With the exception of Mogen and Blumhagen, the remaining Velva wrestlers enter this year’s individual tournament with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.

Other than Braetyn Yanish, six of the remaining seven wrestlers (Elizabeth Massine, Bransyn Yanish, Michael Thomas, Bryce Selzler, Wyatt Hanson and Jeremiah Jesperson) fell short of placing at last year’s state tournament, and they’ll be looking for better results this time around.

“There’s definitely an edge with us,” Barstad said. “I think everybody is pretty proud of what they’ve done this season, and there are some kids that feel like they have a lot to prove.”

Also in the team dual tournament is the Bishop Ryan wrestling team, who enter the Class B tournament as the No. 5 seed and are slated to take on No. 4 Central Cass today at 1:30 p.m.

Like the Aggies, the Lions appear to be coming into the tournament on a hot streak after earning a second place at Saturday’s Region 3 individual tournament. A week prior, Ryan beat Velva in the Region 3 dual tournament championship, 38-33.

“We’ve been wrestling really well the last couple of weeks,” Ryan head coach Steve Lipp said. “I think having a full lineup really for the first time this season has given us a lot of confidence, too… I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”

Ryan will have nine wrestlers competing individually. After placing third last year at 182 pounds, junior Corbin Okeson will be the No. 2 seed at the same weight class. He’ll begin his run with a matchup against Bowman County’s Tysen Mattern.

Another place winner from last year that’s returning is freshman Wesley Harvey. Harvey took seventh last time around at 106 pounds, and he enters this year’s 126-pound bracket unranked.

One wrestler to look out for is senior Kaleb Beeter, who failed to place at last year’s state tournament after taking sixth place as a sophomore. Beeter recently claimed first place at 152 pounds in Saturday’s Region 3 tournament and will be the No. 3 seed at that same weight class.

“Kaleb is such a talented wrestler,” Lipp said. “He’s so slick and good on his feet. He’s been working hard, and when he’s pushing, he’s really hard to beat.”

Also competing individually for the Lions is Connor Harvey (106), Gannon Ledoux (113), Logan Sharpless (145), Cody Luck (170), Kersey Harris (195) and Keegan Henjum (185).

Local teams that won’t be competing in duals but are bringing individual competitors to Fargo include Rugby, Des Lacs-Burlington, Harvey Wells-County and Stanley.

Competing for Rugby is Ridley Odden (120), Aden Jensen (126), Brady Volk (152) and Dylan Grove (160). Representing DLB is Cale Ibach (132), Weston Wahus (145), Walter Winkler (152), Nathan Ferm (160), Coy Spooner (195) and Jordan Robbins (285).

Throwing their hat in the mix for Harvey Wells-County is Isaac Felche (120), Carsen Mertz (152), Elliot Dockter (170) and Collin Mertz (220). Competing for Stanley is Cayne Rudolph (106), Dawson Sessing (113), Leighton Tangsrud (132), Keaton Meiers (138), Camden Reep (160), Noah Swegarden (220) and Jack Wilhelmi (285).

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School and Class B high school sports. Follow him on twitter @JTheSportsDude.

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