Four Panther wrestlers head to state
Four Rugby Panther wrestlers punched their tickets for state last Saturday at the North Dakota Class B High School Region Three qualifying tournament held in Tioga.
Senior wrestler Brady Volk would join freshman John Jundt and sophomores Riley Odden and Aden Jensen at the Fargodome Thursday and Friday to compete for the state title in each of their weight classes.
Seven Panther wrestlers traveled to the regional match along with supportive parents, family and friends. The Rugby contingent formed an orange and black section in the bleachers and filled the noisy Tioga High gym with plenty of cheering of their own.
Brenden Kleespie was the first Rugby wrestler to compete. Kleespie scored nine team points for the Panthers in the 120-pound class, but his fifth place finish wasn’t enough to move him on to Fargo.
Kleespie first grappled with Bishop Ryan’s Octavio Alvarez, falling to Alvarez in 2:45. Kleespie then rebounded, taking Elizabeth Massine down for a fall in 25 seconds in the first consolation round. Consolation Round 2 saw Kleespie go down in defeat to Stanley’s Justin Germundson by a 12-1 major decision. The next 14-5 major decision belonged to Kleespie, however, when he won over Des Lacs-Burlington’s Harrison Schwartz for fifth place.
Jundt battled his way to third place, scoring 16.5 team points in the 126-pound class. Jundt defeated Northern Lights’ Cole Henderson in the quarterfinal round with a 13-1 major decision. Velva’s Gunnar Mogen gained the upper hand over Jundt in the semifinal round, taking Jundt down for a fall in 2:12. Jundt came back strong to take Bishop Ryan’s Gannon Ledoux down for a 3:47 fall, and then defeat MonDak’s Logan Berg for a technical fall for third place.
Panther teammate Jensen, who qualified with a fourth-place finish in the 138-pound division, began his time on the mat with a quarterfinal win by fall over Bishop Ryan’s Wesley Harvey in 1:44. A setback for Jensen followed in the semifinals when Kenmare/Bowbells/Burke Central’s Payton Witt took Jensen down by fall in 4:00. Jensen won the consolation semifinal round with a fall over Velva’s Lucas Seibuhr in 1:38
Jensen went down by fall to Williams County’s Hugo Garcia in the third-place round, earning a place at state with the finish.
Freshman Isaac Christenson competed in the 145-pound class, placing sixth after falling to Stanley’s Cody Rudolph in 1:50, then taking Velva’s Kelson Mascol down in a 2:22 fall in the first consolation round. Christenson fell to Kenmare/Bowbells/Burkes County’s Diontrea Anderson in 4:34 in the consolation semifinal. Angel Guerro defeated Christenson in the fifth-place match by 10-4 decision.
In the 220-pound class, Landon Zietz placed sixth. Zietz fell to Bishop Ryan’s Noah Swegarden in 52 seconds in the quarterfinals before falling to Williams County’s Keaton Brunelle in the consolation semifinals in 2:36. Zietz then fell to Christian Gamboa of Northern Lights in 1:00. Zietz received a bye in the first consolation round.
Odden not only fought other wrestlers for first place in the 132-pound class; his mom, Maribel said he also battled a lung infection. She cheered and held her phone high to capture her son’s matches on videos.
Odden began with a tech fall win over MonDak’s Tanner Koch in 3:08 in the quarterfinals. Odden moved through the semifinal match with a 15-6 major decision win over Kenmare/Bowbells/Burke Central’s Maverick Ford.
Odden took his place under a spotlight for the first-place match, seeded second to Williams County’s Cristian Lagunes. After a handshake under the light, Odden went to work, shooting for takedowns and going for pins. Odden won by 14-4 major decision, taking the first-place title.
After the match, Odden said, “My lungs have been pretty stuffed up. It’s hard to breathe.” However, Odden added, “It feels good to be in first place. I’m looking forward to placing big (in Fargo) and going big.”
Volk was the next Rugby finalist in the first-place round. Like Odden, Volk was seeded second for the championship after Velva’s Michael Thomas.
Before taking his place under the spotlight for the 160-pound class title, Volk had taken down Stanley’s Jonathan Germundson in a 33 second fall to advance to the semifinals. Volk battled Des Lacs-Burlington’s Weston Wahus before taking Wahus down by fall in 4:34.
Volk and Thomas took turns charging at each other in takedown attempts, but Volk wound up with the advantage after each match period ended. Volk took the title as the match ended with a 1-0 decision.
“I think we wrestled well as a team,” Volk said after the match. Volk said he looked forward to state competition.
“I’m happy with how they did,” Panther Coach Craig Zachmeier said after the tournament wrapped up. “We had four qualify, and that’s very good.”
The Panthers traveled to the Fargodome Wednesday and competed in the North Dakota High School Activities Association tournament Thursday and Friday. Tournament results will appear in next week’s Tribune.
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