Wrestlers wrangle region titles
The rapidly improving Rugby High School wrestling program received a big postseason boost with the crowning of three individual champions Feb. 14.
Senior Devon Berg (195 pounds), freshman Kaden Jaeger (138) and eighth-grader Riley Zachmeier (106) won Region III individual championships in Kenmare. The Panthers wrestled well overall and sent eight competitors to this weekend’s state tournament in Fargo.
“It’s a stepping stone for the state tournament,” RHS coach Craig Zachmeier said. “Hopefully our kids’ goals are to place in the state tournament and region championship doesn’t compare to the a state place.”
For team’s lone senior champion, it was a third period pin that clinched the title. Berg (34-11) got the best of Velva sophomore Justin Helseth, finishing the Aggie at the 4 minute, 30 second mark.
“Everything before this is leading up to state,” Berg said. “Being Region 3’s a pretty weak region, I knew our whole team had a good chance of qualifying. anything can happen at state. You just have to take it one match at a time.”
The Panthers took third in team scoring with 170. Bishop Ryan won the team title followed by Velva at 220 and 202, respectively. RHS only qualified four individuals last year.
Berg said a key to doubling the number is, “our willingness to work in practice. We’re not always butting heads and back-talking coaches. We’re actually doing what they’re telling us.”
Jaeger (27-17) overcame the late-match blues and finished strong for a 7-5 decision over Bishop Ryan sophomore Cole Dauphinais for the title.
Jaeger got an escape and takedown in the final 10 seconds to go ahead.
“I definitely want to be No. 1 in the region,” Jaeger said, “and Craig says our conditioning is the best in the state. Like Devon said, anything can happen. There’s been kids not ranked that have taken first (at state) and there’s kids who have been ranked No. 1 and lost in the first round.”
Riley Zachmeier proved he is the class of Region III with a pin of Stanley sophomore Kaydin Meiers at the 3:22 mark.
“It feels good and gives me confidence going into state,” Riley said. “I’m going to give it my all. It doesn’t matter what they’re seeded. I’m pretty happy. I’ve gained a lot in the last two years.”
Riley said he found success with a single sweep his coach and father showed him in practice leading up to the region meet.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Craig Zachmeier said. “The kids are working hard. We started the year with 12 kids and kept them all. We didn’t have any serious injuries and we have a good group of kids. We’ve exceeded expectations this season, the program’s building and the kids are glad to be at the state tournament.”
Today, the Panthers are competing in the final day of the state tournament. Other qualifiers included 113-pound freshman Joey Berg, 152-pound senior Reid Mundahl (region runner-up), 170-pound senior Bennie Mygland, 182-pound sophomore Ethan Morin (runner-up) and 220-pound junior Spencer Koehmstedt (runner-up).
Note: Craig Zachmeier said former RHS wrestling coach Pete Murtaugh (1973-1990) was elected by the state coaches to be inducted into the North Dakota Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame with the Class of 2016.
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