PLEASANT LAKE – It was deer season two years ago when Reid Mundahl was hunting with his father, Doug, about five miles from the family’s farm near Pleasant Lake. The duo’s vehicle got stuck, so without hesitation the son hightailed it back home in his cowboy boots.
“A couple minutes later, he’s coming down the road with the tractor,” said Doug, a burly cattle farmer, who joked about the incident. “He’s the first Mundahl that doesn’t like to eat and can run.”
Reid Mundahl, 17, is always running or wrestling or playing football. The reserved junior at Rugby High School does it all with a shy smile and unflinching focus. Mundahl will stand out on the mats at this weekend’s state tournament in Bismarck because he excels with only part of his left arm.
The arm was caught in a grain auger when he was in third grade and left him with the portion above his elbow. It’s an afterthought now for both him and his family, but the accident and Reid’s resilience as a wrestler serve as constant inspiration for his teammates and coaches.
“He’s the leader that we’re looking for,” RHS wrestling coach Craig Zachmeier said. “He’s just a privilege to be around. He’s a good, respectable young man that everybody gets to look up to … including the coaches. And we don’t look up to him based on only having one hand. We look up to him because he works so hard and has such a good attitude.”
Zachmeier and his staff believe Mundahl’s fifth appearance in the state tournament is a school record and the 145-pounder still has another season ahead of him.
Mundahl was already immersed in wrestling when the accident happened and he took the next year off from competing. Wrestling still proved an enjoyable endeavor, so he returned to the mats and adapted. Coaches and teammates who have been with him since elementary school said he’s never been bitter.
“I just don’t let it bother me,” Mundahl said. “I just had to get over it and go to the next day, I guess, and work on not thinking about that. Just thinking about the good.”
The understated demeanor is a sharp contrast to his relentless wrestling style, which made him one of the top competitors in Region III this season. Mundahl, who also plays defensive end and guard in football, advanced to his first region championship match a week ago. He lost, but advanced to the final with a first-round pin in one minute, 29 seconds and an 8-1 decision in the semifinal round. He said he’s so used to wrestling with one hand that it doesn’t even seem like a challenge anymore.
Maintaining hand control of an opponent from the bottom and hanging onto a leg is more difficult, but Mundahl has honed his own skills. He prefers shooting to an opponent’s left leg because he can hold it and he knows opponents will try to attack his right arm.
“Kids have come up to me and said that I’m one of the toughest kids they’ve wrestled,” Mundahl said, “but probably not the kids I beat.”
Doug Mundahl heaps praise on the coaching staff at RHS for helping mold his son into one of the team’s top performers. Reid has competed under three head coaches – Zachmeier, Ken Higbee and Mitch Meyer – and been with longtime assistant coach Brad Jundt throughout.
“(Jundt’s) been the chain holding it together through the different coaches,” Doug Mundahl said. “The commitment these coaches make for these kids is amazing.”
The Mundahls keep a printout in their kitchen of a moment after Reid won his first state tournament match as an eighth-grader. In the shot, Zachmeier is hoisting Reid after the victory.
“We had to learn and adapt different moves that will work with two arms and one hand,” Zachmeier said. “It all has to do with blocking, using the shoulder, making sure we tie up a certain way, but he can do anything that anybody else can do and that’s where we’re really at an advantage with Reid compared to other teams. We get to work with him every day.”
Harvey-Wells County coach Kelly Haas said it’s difficult coaching against Reid because it requires teaching a different wrestling style.
“I’ve watched Reid come up through the years and each year he gets better and stronger,” Haas said. “One of the disadvantages we see is how strong he is. His other arm and legs are so much stronger. The strength part is hard. When we’re on top and trying to ride him, guys are so used to grabbing that wrist and sometimes when they grab at it they fall off.”
RHS junior Bennie Mygland considers Reid one of his best friends and echoed much of what Haas said. Reid and Mygland are partners at practice.
“As a wrestler, he’s a stud,” Mygland said. “We kind of try to one-up each other. He looks at it like he can still do these things. He can still wrestle, he can still play football, he can still do a punt. He just stays positive.”
Reid said part of his drive comes from seeing others succeed and overcome disadvantages, including Anthony Robles. The former Arizona State University wrestler won the 2011 NCAA championship at 125 pounds with one leg.
“It kind of gets you thinking like, ‘Geez, I can do that,’ ” Reid said.
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