(This article was originally in the 1-21 edition. It was reuploaded due to an error. The Tribune apologizes.)
This past weekend the Rugby Wrestlers and boosters hosted their annual tournament. This year saw 21 teams come from all over the state. The gymnasium was packed with four mats ready to see action with the south side and top bleachers overcrowded with an estimated 1200-1400 spectators between the two days to cheer on the wrestlers. The wrestlers made team camps up and down the hallways to make room in the gymnasium as 270 wrestlers made their way in and out to wrestle.
When one thinks of Rugby Wrestling, they might think of Riley Zachmeier, Kaden Jaeger, Joey Berg the current team! However, this past weekend was more. The tradition and pride was strong in the Charles Hanneman Gymnasium as it was full of wrestling alumni. When people are coming to tournaments, a good chance that most of them wrestled at one time or another or were part of a wrestling team as a stat or cheerleader.
(Ashley Berg for the PCT)
RHS alum Evan St. Michel referees a match in the Rugby wrestling tournament; a tournament he wrestled in in his high school years.
Coach Jerald Lemar, RHS 98' Alumni brought his Bismarck Century Patriot team to his hometown tournament. Lemar was looking for some new and different competition and after talking to Rugby Coach Craig Zachmeier, he knew Rugby would be a great opportunity.
"It's always nostalgic walking into the place that I use to call home, well I still call it home," stated Lemar. "Rugby always has a place in my heart and it's great to be able to show my kids (that I coach) where I wrestled. Not a whole lot of coaches get to do that."
Jerald Lemar has a State Championship banner hanging in the gymnasium from his senior year. He commented that he tried to ignore it all weekend, but his team loved it and posted pictures and found more pictures in the hallways. Lemar has been coaching for 16 years and continues it because of the relationships.
"I look back at Brian Lenzmeier as a father figure and it's those people that keep us coming back. It's a tough sport to leave because it becomes your second family," stated Lemar. Lemar brought on Reid Mundahl, RHS 15' graduate to help coach, who also attended the tournament.
RHS 88' Alumni Brenda Olson ran a table both days of the tournament.
"I had brothers who wrestled so I started going to tournaments at a young age, then I started taking stats, which led to working state tournaments," said Olson. "I guess I got the wrestling bug early and I truly love the sport! I love helping out and I like to be where the action is so I love working the tables." Olson added, "I enjoy watching their (wrestlers) hard work pay off, if it's a Rugby wrestler or a Napoleon wrestler. It's a good thing God made me a girl, because I wouldn't have been tough enough to be a wrestler. But I know what it takes and I'm amazed at their dedication."
Olson wasn't the only alumni working one of the four tables, along with her was Donavon Schneibel 75'; Chris Brosssart -98'; Michel Ostrem 11'; Wyatt Thompson 11'; Devon Berg 15'; and Spencer Koehmstedt 16'.
Although a two-time Class A State Champion, Coach Craig Zachmeier isn't a Rugby alumni. Despite that, he puts his heart and soul into the program. He understands it's a family tradition as his own brother, Andy Zachmeier, a Class A State Champion, helped work the tournament along with their nephew Ryan Zachmeier, also a Class A State Champion.
RHS alumni 95' coach, Travis Lemar also brought his team from Casselton.
"It's just like old times walking into the gym," stated Travis "Yes, the commons have changed, but I can still hear Lenzmeier screaming at us upstairs and Higbee blowing his drill whistle. I love coming back and being part of it. I love seeing the Rugby traditions continue on and see the work the kids do. I loved this weekend to sit in the corner and watch Joel Berg, David Jaeger, and Bruce Odden and watch them coaching their kids and knowing they use to kick my butt in practice. So when I see those kids wrestling, it's fun knowing I watched their dads wrestle.
Travis believes in giving back. He learned a lot of lessons from wrestling and it's his way to repay his coaches and what they did for him.
"Wrestling is a huge family," said Travis. I've got opposing coaches that are my best friends. We compete but at the end of the day, we are wishing each other good luck!"
Refs are on the go up and down and all over the mat. If you are unsure ask RHS 01' alumni Evan St. Michel, as he was one of the five refs that worked the tournament.
"The people that help with this tournament and all of our sporting events is wonderful," stated Athletic Director Scott Grochow. "Rugby is truly great for that. It's not just previous wrestlers, but it's alumni, alumni parents, current parents, high school staff." Grochow worked the head table along with Bill Jansen.
It takes a lot of work to get a tournament to run smoothly. It takes everyone to help from setting up mats, weighing in wrestlers, skin checks, baking bars, cooking for the hospitality/coaches' room, taking tickets, breaking down and cleaning up at the end of the night. Everyone takes part and works together. Additional wrestling alumni that worked the tournament: Karl Koehmstedt; Bruce Odden, David Schneibel, David Jaeger, Joel Berg, Coach Brad Jundt, Tricia Jundt, Ben Mack and Ashley Berg.
Travis Lemar said it best, "I can leave a Squirrel, but I will always be a Panther!"
Ashley Berg is a RHS alumni and a proud wrestling cheerleader!