Wrestlers qualify nine for State Class B Tournament
By Neal A. Shipman
After securing a spot for the team in the State Class B Dual Tournament, this past weekend the Watford City wrestling team qualified nine of its wrestlers for the individual portion of the tournament.
In all, nine Watford City wrestlers competed at the Region IV Tournament in New Salem this past Saturday. And all nine of them finished in the top four, which qualified them for State.
And Mitch Greenwood, Wolves’ head coach, couldn’t be happier for his wrestlers.
“We talked about it Friday night at practice. We thought all nine could qualify if we wrestled well,” stated Greenwood. “We told the kids that this was a business trip that we were going on, not a vacation. They stepped up to the plate and took care of business.”
Liam Shannon kicked off the action at 106 pounds on Saturday when he won a hotly contested match against New Salem’s Tayt Wolding. Shannon then dropped a semifinal matchup which set him up to take on Killdeer’s Dylan Tabor with a trip to the State Tournament on the line. Shannon controlled the match throughout, but Tabor brought everything he had and made it a close contest. Shannon went on to finish in fourth place and went 2-2 on the day after dropping his last match to Bowman County’s Alex Madrigal.
At 113 pounds, Dakota Garmann received a first round bye and then faced off with a familiar opponent in Tyler Longland from Bowman County. The two had wrestled four times previously this season, with Longland coming out on top in three of those encounters. Longland proved to have Garmann’s number when he was able to pin him in the second period. Garmann bounced back strong as he shut out New Salem’s Seth Johnson in the third place match.
The Wolves had their strongest performances of the day at 120 and 126 pounds from Jade Hepper and Logan Gumke. Each of them were the No. 1-ranked wrestlers at their respective weight classes in the tournament, and both of them lived up to their billing.
Hepper picked up a pin in the semifinals against Killdeer’s Zach Binstock. In the finals he squared off with Matt Carlson from Bowman County. Carlson beat Hepper early in the season, but Hepper avenged that loss later on. Carlson then went ahead in the series, two to one, in the third place match at the East/West Tournament. Going into the third period, Hepper trailed 1-0 before securing a takedown and two nearfall points. The four-point move was all he needed to become a two-time, Region Champ, with a 4-1 victory.
Gumke scored a five-point spladle against Killdeer’s Cole Dukart in the semifinal round, which proved to be the difference in a 10-5 decision. The win set up a finals matchup with Beulah’s Tyrell Mellmer. Gumke owned a 2-0 record against Mellmer during the season and improved to 3-0 against the 2013 state place winner by pinning him 53 seconds into the second period.
“Jade wrestled very smart today. He beat a very good wrestler in Matt Carlson. I would fully expect to see both of them standing somewhere on the podium at the state tournament next week” stated Greenwood. “Logan kept the momentum going in the finals. He wrestled like a champion today. He kept his poise and took advantage of the openings that were given to him. If he wrestles this way next week he will have a great opportunity to become a state place winner too.”
Clay Jorgenson went 2-2 on the day, finishing in fourth place. He kicked off the tournament with a dominating win over Beulah’s Damien Eslinger. He then dropped a 13-2 major decision to Hettinger’s Trevor Abrahamson. The loss set up a loser-out situation against Bowman’s Tel Lardy. Lardy and Jorgenson have wrestled three times previously this year with Jorgenson winning the first two and Lardy winning the most recent matchup. Jorgenson got his offense going early in the regional matchup and cruised to a 10-1 major decision, and then advanced to the third place match against Killdeer’s David Arthur. Arthur was able to control the pace of the match and secured a 6-3 win.
“Clay wrestled very well today. He is in a very tough weight class and this was easily the toughest bracket in the whole tournament,” stated Greenwood. “There were two very good wrestlers who did not make it out of this region and I’m proud of Clay for being one of the kids who did advance to State. He has worked so hard this year and deserved the opportunity to showcase what he can do next week at the state tournament.”
Kyle Cook competed at 145 pounds for the Wolves and was the fifth-ranked wrestler in the region. Cook came out on fire in the first round against the fourth-ranked Lane Jeffers from Bowman and built a big lead through the first two periods. He then stamped his ticket to the State Tournament by pinning Jeffers in the third. Cook ended the day in fourth place after being defeated by Hettinger’s Christian Hughes and Beulah’s Mason Faut.
Coleton Jore wrestled to his ranking on Saturday as he came in as the No. 2 seed. He received a bye into the semifinal round where he squared off with Hettinger’s Dalton Shaffer. Jore initially struggled to get any offense going, but scored backpoints right at the end of regulation to tie the score and send it to overtime. Jore used the momentum to push forward and score two points from a single leg takedown in the sudden death period. The win propelled him to the region finals against Bowman’s Sterling Lee. The two battled back and forth, but Lee came out on top at the end of the match with a 10-7 decision.
At 195 pounds, Hunter Olson found himself in a meat-grinder of a weight class. There were only four competitors at this weight, however all three of them are ranked in the top eight in the state and all will compete for a spot on the podium.
“Hunter wrestled very hard and he put forth a lot of effort, and that’s all we ask of any of our kids.” stated Greenwood. “There is no shame in taking fourth when the top three are as good as these three are.”
Jake Belland rounded out the tournament for the Wolves. Belland opened with Bowman’s Mac Stuber in the first round in a battle of the fourth and fifth seeds. This was the fifth meeting between the two this season and Belland had won three of the previous four. Stuber, however, brought his best match for Belland at the regional. The two were dead-locked 4-4 late in the third period when Stuber was penalized for applying a full-Nelson hold. Stuber had no choice but to let Belland go and attempt a takedown to tie the match. But time was on Belland’s side as he only had to defend the takedown for nine seconds, and was able to hold on for a 6-4 win. The victory set up a semifinal matchup with Hettinger’s Brandon Ehlers. Ehlers was able to pin Belland in the first period on his way to a second straight Region IV heavyweight title. Belland advanced to the third and fourth place match against Standing Rock’s Jade Standing Bear. After a very competitive first period, Belland slipped up a little in the second period and ended up getting pinned.
Hettinger won the team championship with 223 points, while Watford City ended in fifth place.
In the individual competition, which will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, Watford City first round action will be as follows:
First Round Matchups
106: Liam Shannon vs. Spencer Sweeny, Larimore.
113: Dakota Garmann vs. Wyatt Ledoux, Bishop Ryan.
120: Jade Hepper vs. Justin Thomas, Velva.
126: Logan Gumke vs. Lane Berg, Central Cass.
138: Clay Jorgenson vs. Jorge Rico, Mondak (Grenora).
145: Kyle Cook vs. Joel Weber, South Border.
160: Coleton Jore vs. Brayden Kuntz, South Border.
195: Hunter Olson vs. Nicholas Becker, Napoleon.
285: Jake Belland vs. Mason Kramer, Bishop Ryan.
At this year’s State Tournament, the Wolves will square off against the Carrington Cardinals in the first round of the State Dual Tournament, which will follow the first round of individual action.