Training pays off
Craig Zachmeier took a year off from coaching in late 2012 only to return to the helm of the Rugby High School wrestling team this year.
The roster is loaded with youth, but the expectations aren’t exactly indicative of a team starting numerous junior high athletes. Zachmeier believes at least eight on his roster of 12 have legitimate shots at qualifying for the Class B state meet.
“All the years of building are finally starting to pay off,” Zachmeier said.
The team doesn’t have the numbers to be a strong dual team in Region 3, but the Panthers still figure to have as talented a team as any.
Senior heavyweight and co-captain Alex Senger placed seventh at state in February and competed well against the four returning state-placers that finished ahead of him.
“I lost to them last year, but I feel I work hard,” Senger said. “We’ve got 17 practices before our first tournament. I’m gonna work, I’m gonna come out and try to beat ’em.”
Standing in Senger’s path is Region 3 foe and last season’s state runner-up senior Mason Kramer of Bishop Ryan. Kramer beat Senger multiple times, making the matchup one of the Panther’s most anticipated.
“That’s one of my goals and I’m gonna try to beat him,” Senger said. “He threw me every single time and he shot once on me. I went to a few camps this summer, worked on defending those shots and throws.”
Senger described the team as “way, way tougher” than the previous squad. Co-captain and classmate Dylan Morin is another state-title contender. Morin finished sixth at 182 pounds and gained experience against Class A champion Preston Lehmann (West Fargo), according to Zachmeier.
Morin took his summer training seriously and wrestled for two weeks in Oklahoma at the national duals. Also aiming for a high place are four-time state qualifier and junior Reid Mundahl at 145 and Devon Berg at 195. Berg also wrestled in Oklahoma to improve after just missing out on a top-8 spot.
“We’re gonna concentrate on the individual tournaments,” Zachmeier said. “We lost Bennie Mygland (145) this year with a football injury. Without him we’re not gonna be as tough a dual team. Benny was a huge contributor to the dual aspect.”
Eighth-grader Joey Berg was a starter a year ago and will be a tough competitor at 113. Classmate Kaeden Jaeger and seventh-grader Riley Zachmeier – the coach’s son – are expected to be competitive at 126 and 106, respectively.
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