Wrestlers take center stage
If you enjoy wrestling, it is probably time to head over to Rugby High School this morning for the Panther Booster Tournament.
The annual gathering promises to showcase the best athletes in Classes A and B and what RHS coach Craig Zachmeier describes as one of the best Panther teams in years.
“It’s gonna be nice to have our home tournament and perform again in our gym because we are going out to make a statement,” Zachmeier said. “This is probably the best team Rugby’s seen since the mid-to-late-’90s. The work ethic and attitude is there, now they just gotta show it.”
The tournament will feature the top-three dual and individual teams, according to the Class B State Coaches’ Poll. Carrington, Napoleon and Pembina County North are ranked in that order in both dual and individual team rankings and all three are looking for a title in Rugby.
PCN won last week’s Central Cass Letterman’s tournament, which included competition from South Dakota and Minnesota. Rugby was 13th of 22 teams.
Turtle Mountain Community High School, a top-5 team in Class A, also takes the mat at today’s tournament, which began Friday evening. Zachmeier said the 23 teams is five more than the tournament drew last year.
“Our kids all need to place and wrestle to and above their seeds,” Zachmeier said. “We have to wrestle consistently and that’s something we’ve been working on, but we need to improve on.”
Senior Reid Mundahl (152 pounds) is the hottest Panther of late. Mundahl dropped his opening match at Central Cass and rattled off six straight wins to take third place and string together the longest winning streak of his career.
Mundahl fell in a 7-6 decision to Central Cass junior Nate Volk (4th ranked in Region 2), but rebounded with a 45-second pin of his next opponent. Another pin and three decisions followed, including a 5-1 win in a rematch with Volk. Mundahl capped his stellar day with a 1-minute pin of Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm freshman Clayton Grueneich.
“I was sticking to what coaches are telling me and staying away from old mistakes,” Mundahl said. “I can’t just be looking for the pin. I need to wrestle crisp and look for the good outcome.”
Mundahl’s 6-1 record on the day lifted him to the team’s top individual record for the season at 18-7. Eighth-grader Riley Zachmeier, the coach’s son, is not far off with a 16-10 record at 106 pounds. He finished fourth at Central Cass with a 2-2 record.
Riley Zachmeier dropped a 6-0 decision to eventual champion and Larimore junior Spencer Sweeney in a semifinal match. The young Panther advanced to that match with a 9-2 and 10-3 decisions.
“Reid and Riley are constantly improving by leaps and bounds,” Craig Zachmeier said. “They’re ahead of where I thought they would be.”
Mental toughness is a major point holding the entire group back though Zachmeier continues to praise his team’s effort this year.
“Really, right now we only have two kids that are consistent.” he said. “The other ones need to improve. The only good thing that I can come up with that’s consistent is their attitudes are phenomenal and we need to build off that.
“But good attitude doesn’t replace the need to be aggressive and the ability to take some pain.”
The coach pointed to instances of wrestlers letting go of potential match-changing moves too quickly. Mundahl and the other seniors are eager to prove that toughness is there in their final competition at home.
“It’s my last home meet and last match I’ll wrestle in the gym,” Mundahl said, “so I want to go out on top. That’s my goal for the weekend.”
The tournament will run all day at Charles Hanneman Gymnasium.
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