Berg earning his keep
The difference a year can make is often hard to measure. In Devon Berg’s case, a year meant maturing from an undisciplined athlete into a team leader in football and wrestling.
The growth is not all quantifiable, but regular top-three finishes in the biggest regular season wrestling tournaments in the state is a good place to start. Berg, a 195-pound senior at Rugby High School, took third a week ago in his weight class at the East-West Classic in New Salem. He secured third place with a 7-5 decision over Jacob Schalesky of Hettinger.
A year ago, Berg was not even on the team. RHS coach Craig Zachmeier said the keys to the contender’s turnaround are maturity, commitment and humility.
“I think he made a life change,” Zachmeier said. “He did this on his own and he should be commended for it. He’s a whole different kid than what stepped in our room last year.”
The team is in Rolla this morning for the Region 3 duals. The Panthers are the third seed and only the top two teams advance to the state dual meet.
Berg, who holds the team’s top individual record at 30-11, acknowledged wising up after dropping off the roster early in his junior campaign.
“Me and Craig weren’t really seeing eye-to-eye,” Berg said. “We have a love-hate relationship, but this year I realized it was my last chance and I’d been wrestling my whole life.”
Berg buckled down and felt refreshed by the freestyle portion of the offseason. He credits Zachmeier and teammates like senior Reid Mundahl for spending time with him in the wrestling room. Berg also proved a defensive stalwart as an end in football last fall. He was tied for fourth on the team with 89 tackles and was second with 11 tackles for loss. His five sacks were good for second on the team. The success and confidence has transferred to the mat.
“Football kind of boosts you,” Berg said. “Practices are hard and they get long. If you have a good season it gets your head in the right place.”
Mundahl, who also took third in New Salem, is glad to see his team’s depth strengthened with a resurgent Berg.
“He has a way better attitude and he’s willing to work,” Mundahl said.
Wrestling over the team’s seed today will require the regular success of Berg and Mundahl to continue. The Panthers wrestle No. 6 Kenmare in the opening round.
With more of the boys buying into the team this season, Zachmeier is confident in the dual lineup, especially with seniors like Berg on board.
“He realized with our team, we set a standard and expect everyone to live by it and if you can’t you have no place on this team,” Zachmeier said. “He’s realized the standard and lived up to it.”
Berg said he is considering going to Lake Region Community College to study precision agriculture.
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