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1962 RHS boys champs honored

By Staff | Mar 30, 2012

Fifty years ago the Rugby High School boys basketball team won the state championship title playing as a Class A team. On Friday night, March 9, members of the team, cheerleaders, team managers, and their coaches were honored during half time of the 2012 State Class A Tournament in Fargo.

The following is the account that was written by Carlan Kraft, a member of the team, and read at the ceremony.

“The Rugby Panthers entered the State Class A Tournament in March of 1962 as the number one seed out of the West with a 15-3 record.

In the first round of the tournament, the Panthers defeated Park River, 70-53. In the second round, the Panthers defeated Fargo, 57-51, when Paul Presthus scored 44 points and set a state tournament record.

The championship game pitted the Panthers against the Williston Coyotes for the third time during the season. The battles between Rugby, led by Paul Presthus, and Williston, led by Phil Jackson, were epic. The championship game ended, as had the previous Western Dakota games, with the Panthers winning. The Rugby Panthers prevailed over the Williston Coyotes by a score of 73-61 and brought home their first Class A State Championship.

The co-captains of the 1962 State Champions were seniors Roger Giesinger and Bob Bolinske. The leader of the team was junior Paul Presthus who was the State Class A scoring leader, first team All-State and High School All-American, all of which were repeated in his senior year in 1963.

This team had several players continue participating in collegiate athletics, including Presthus in basketball at the University of MN, Giesinger in basketball at NDSU, Ellingrud in baseball at NDSU, and Kraft in track at West Point.

Although the 1962 Class A Championship was the first for Coach Dick Vinger, and arguably his most memorable, he later coached at Grand Forks Central for over 20 years and won two additional Class A State Championships in the ’70s.

The 1962 team was a unique group of student athletes. They all graduated from college at a time when that wasn’t necessarily the norm. At a time when it wasn’t very popular, they had 6 military veterans, including 4 who served in Vietnam and 1 Air Force Officer who served for 30 years. All of these young men went on to become professionals, business leaders and each was a credit to their adopted community and, of course, their hometown of Rugby. “

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