West dominates East at Class A wrestling tournament
FARGO—Kevin Fynboh tried to explain why the Class A West Region teams have been proven better than the East Region the last few years. The West Fargo head wrestling coach thinks it simply comes down to culture.
The west side of North Dakota may just have a stronger passion for the sport and works harder during the offseason, Fynboh said. Maybe that's why the West Region swept its cross-state opponents on Thursday, Feb. 16.
All four West Region teams defeated the East Region teams in the Class A state wrestling dual quarterfinals at the Fargodome.
In seeded upsets, West No. 3-seeded Bismarck High blew out East Region tournament champion and No. 2-seeded Fargo Davies 53-18 and West Region No. 4-seeded Mandan took down East Region regular season champion and No. 1-seeded West Fargo 41-32 in the closest Class A dual of the day.
West Region regular-season champion and No. 1 seed Minot topped East Region No. 4-seeded Valley City 66-9 and West Region tournament champion and No. 2-seeded Bismarck Century topped East No. 3 Wahpeton 64-14.
Mandan will go up against Century and Minot will take on defending state champion Bismarck at 1 p.m. Friday in the semifinals while the winners of those matches will face off in the Class A team championship at 7 p.m. Friday at the Fargodome. West Fargo will face Wahpeton and Valley City will go against Davies in the consolation semifinals at 1 p.m. and the winners will compete for fifth place at 7 p.m. Friday.
Fynboh said he wasn't surprised by the West Region's performance considering there's more ranked wrestlers from the west.
"Out west, they've got a great wrestling culture out there," Fynboh said. "It's not a lack of opportunities, it's maybe a lack of kids wanting to get into it. We're trying to figure that out (in the east) and where we're at with West Fargo. You've got to build a culture."
After JJ Harms tied up West Fargo's dual at 6-6 with a pin at 120 pounds, Mandan went on a 21-0 run to pull away. Jared Franek won by fall at 152 pounds and Jackson Gravel won by 8-0 major decision, but Dale Spilman gave Mandan a big lift by beating East Region 170-pound individual champion Cade Pederson with a 14-1 major decision.
North Dakota State commits Jesse Shearer at 195 pounds and Brandon Metz at 285 pounds both won by falls and Riley Kringlie won with a 14-5 major decision at 220 pounds to get West Fargo within five points before the last match of the dual. However, Karsen Mosbrucker held off Max Kringlie at 106 pounds and took a 20-6 major decision for Mandan's dual win.
Metz said the depth of Mandan, which beat the Packers during the regular season, was too much to overcome.
"It's something you saw coming considering the power they have in the west," Metz said of the team sweep. "When the No. 4 seed in the west beats the No. 1 seed in the east, that shows you how strong the west is. I personally think anyone of those four teams could come out dual champs."
The East Region's bottom three seeded teams were shutout in the first five matches of their duals. Valley City's only points came in a fall from Logan Erlandson at 160 pounds and a 7-2 decision by Jake Tangen at 182 pounds.
Wahpeton's first points came from a 16-1 technical fall from Noah Wiek at 145 pounds. Brandon Thiel's 160-pound fall and Aaron Deike's 3-0 decision at 170 pounds were Wahpeton's only points.
"We have good, solid kids, but we don't have the solid lineup that they have," Wahpeton head coach Scott Tischer said. "Our boys, we have individuals to concentrate on and I have no doubt in my mind that my boys are good enough to bounce back."
After Davies was pinned in four of its first five matches, Jaden Mairs secured a fall in under a minute at 145 pounds and Alex Skaare scored a 17-0 technical fall at 152 pounds in a small comeback. But in Davies' only other wins, Kolby Johnson won a 16-2 major decision at 170 pounds and Chase DeBlaere won in a thrilling 4-2 sudden victory at 106 pounds.
Davies has made the state tournament in its first six years as a program but has now lost in the first round to West Region teams every year.
Eagles head coach Keenan Spiess said it "sucks" to lose again in the quarterfinals, but he wasn't surprised by the west's sweep. West teams take part in more offseason training, Spiess said, and he hopes his team and his side of the state will follow suit.
"It's no secret," Spiess said. "One of these days, our kids will get sick of losing, wrestle in the summer and we'll move on."
West Fargo's No. 1-seeded Brandon Metz, who was undefeated at 46-0 going into the individual tournament, needed just 20 seconds to make the 285-pound semifinals. The Packers senior pinned unattached Travis Howe of Grand Forks Central in 11 seconds in the first round and No. 8-seeded Nolan Hintz of Bismarck in nine seconds in the quarterfinals. "You can't overlook anyone. You go out there with your head on straight and show them what you're worth," Metz said. "I just want to go out there and dominate all my guys. No matter who lines up across from me, I'm going to give it my best no matter what." ... Century led all Class A teams with 98.5 points in the individual team points race, while three-time returning state champion Bismarck was second with 90.5, Minot was third with 89, Mandan was fourth with 73.5 and West Fargo rounded out the top five with 53. Metz, JJ Harms (113 pounds), Jared Franek (152 pounds), Cade Pederson (160 pounds) and Jesse Shearer (182 pounds) all made the semifinals at their weights as No. 1 seeds. "If we can get those guys to keep scoring points and get in the finals," Metz said, "and we get some of these younger inexperienced guys to come back in wrestlebacks and get some wins and points, that'll be helpful for us down the road." ... Three Davies wrestlers made the individual semifinals. No. 6-seeded Andre Baguma upset Minot's No. 3-seeded Elijah Huff with a 3-1 sudden victory in the quarterfinals to advance at 285 pounds. No. 4-seeded Jaden Mairs at 145 pounds and No. 4-seeded Chase DeBlaere at 106 pounds also made the final four at their weights. ... North Dakota High School Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees included the 1977 Mandan Braves, Josh Krebs (Minot High), Chuck Michaelson (Velva High wrestler, Williston High coach), Scott Knowlen (Bismarck High), Robert Finneseth (Velva), Kayle Dangerud (Hettinger), Shannon Johnson (Napoleon), Chris Zink (Carrington), Rod Garland (Oakes), Rod MacDonald (Mayville-Portland-CG), Mark McLean (Hillsboro) and Ben and Robin James (Kenmare).