Posted 2/23/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Jake Belland wrapped up his Watford City High School wrestling career with a third place finish at the North Dakota State Class B Wrestling Tournament this past weekend in Fargo.
The Wolves placed four of their 10 wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament with Jade Hepper finishing in sixth place, while Liam Shannon and Braedon Gumke took seventh place. Watford City ended the tournament in 14th place scoring 48 points.
At 220 pounds, Belland entered the state tournament as the No. 2-ranked in Class B and picked up a quick pin against Linton’s Andrew Vetter in opening round action. In the quarter-finals, Belland fell victim to Pembina County North’s Mike Lafferty, the No. 7-ranked wrestler who went on to win the State Class title. But Belland did not let the setback ruin his tournament as he bounced back in the consolation round by pinning Central Cass’s Dillon Knutson. Belland then won three consecutive matches to march on to a third place finish. He won a 2-1 match against Stanley’s Garrett Hoelscher in triple overtime to advance to the consolation semifinals against Beulah/Hazen’s Denzel Sanders, who he defeated in a triple overtime match.
In the third place match, Belland found himself trailing Williams County’s Jaren Rassmussen, 1-0, entering the third period. In the final two minutes of action, Belland secured a reversal and then rode Rassmussen out the remainder of the match to hang on for a 2-1 win.
Senior Jade Hepper entered his fourth state tournament as the No. 6-ranked 145-pounder in the tournament. Hepper wasted no time picking up a pin in the first round against MonDak’s Jeremiah Paine. In the quarterfinals, Hepper picked up a 7-2 decision over unseeded Jacob Bitz of Napoleon, who had knocked off No. 3-ranked Alec Andress of Hettinger in the first round.
Hepper’s semifinal round was one of the most exciting matches of the tournament as he took on No. 2-ranked Aaron Sandy of Bishop Ryan. Hepper came out on fire picking up two early takedowns. Sandy, however, came back in the third period as he scored a takedown to close the gap to just one point. Feeling he could not turn Hepper to his back, Sandy let him get to his feet giving up an escape point to give Hepper a 5-3 lead. Sandy then scored a takedown to tie the match with just two seconds remaining to send the match into overtime.
After a scoreless first overtime, Sandy scored an escape to go ahead 6-5 in the second overtime. And then in the second, 30-second period, he was able to hold Hepper down to take a 6-5 win.
Hepper came back the following day in the consolation semifinals where he took on a familiar opponent in Alec Andress from Hettinger. The match was tight throughout, however, late in the third period a whistle blew on the adjacent mat which both wrestlers thought came from their mat. Both wrestlers stopped wrestling, however the match was still live. Unfortunately for Hepper, Andress was the first one to realize that the match was still going on and he was able to take advantage of the situation as he jumped on top of Hepper to secure a win.
In the fifth place match Hepper took on Beulah/Hazen’s Josh Snyder, who built a 7-2 lead before Hepper hit a five-point throw to tie the match. Snyder was able to slip out of the hold and score an escape with just three seconds to go and to win the match, 8-7, with Hepper ending the tournament in sixth place.
Liam Shannon, a Region 4 runner-up at 106 pounds, entered the tournament as an unseeded wrestler and drew No. 1-ranked Coy Awender of Oakes in first round action. Awender showed why he was the state’s top wrestler as he earned a 15-0 technical fall over Shannon. In the second day of the tournament, Shannon, a freshman, took on Patrick Calvillo, a senior from Pembina County North. Shannon and Calvillo battled until Shannon used a chicken wing in the third period to turn Calvillo to his back and picked up nearfall points that helped him come away with a 8-4 decision.
The win sent Shannon to the “Blood Round” of the tournament, which means if you win you will be a state place winner. But if you lose, you are out of the tournament.
Shannon would use a series of takedowns to defeat Lisbon’s Hunter Schwab, the No. 7-ranked wrestler, 8-6 to move into the placing rounds.
In the third consolation round, Shannon was decisioned 7-4 by Bishop Ryan’s Conner Ledoux and moved to the seventh place match where he pinned Kyle Alfson of Hillsboro to end his tournament with an exclamation point.
Watford City’s final place finisher was Braedon Gumke, who took seventh place at 113 pounds.
Gumke, who entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, decisioned Rylee Thompson of MayPort-CG, 5-3, in opening round action before being decisioned 13-0 by Chauncey Dittus of New Salem in the quarterfinals. Gumke bounced back from the loss with a win by pin over Hillsboro’s Gavin Wright to ensure that he would be a state place winner. Gumke then met up with another regional rival in Alex Madrigal of Bowman County, with Madrigal picking up a 11-5 win.
In the seventh place match, Gumke took on Austin Hendrickson, the No. 5-ranked wrestler from Carrington. The pair wrestled to a tie at the end of regulation with Gumke securing a sudden death takedown to win the match.
Six other Watford City wrestlers, CJ Thacker, Dakota Garmann, Hunter Schwartzenberger, Kyle Cook, Conner Dennis, and Jackson Faller also competed at the State Class B Tournament, but failed to place.
CJ Thacker, who competed at 120 pounds, lost a 5-1 decision in his first match against No. 7-ranked Coy Spooner of Des Lacs/Burlington in the first round, before coming back to win an 8-4 decision over Linton’s Ty Thompson. Thacker’s next opponent was a familiar one in Hettinger’s Carlos Martinez. Martinez was 3-0 against Thacker entering the tournament and was able to make that 4-0 by pinning him in the third period.
Dakota Garmann, who entered the 126-pound weight class unseeded, lost a 5-2 decision to Carrington’s Tyler Hoggarth, the No. 7-seeded wrestler, in the opening round. In the second round, Garmann opened up a 3-0 lead against regional rival Ethan Lagge from Beulah/Hazen, before getting pinned late in the second period to be eliminated from the tournament.
At 138 pounds, Hunter Schwartzenberger made his state tournament debut in just his first year of wrestling. The debut, however, pitted Schwartzenberger against Pembina County North’s Braydin Horgan, a former state champion and the only undefeated wrestler in Class B. Schwartzenberger was pinned in the first period of that match and was then eliminated from the tournament as he was decisioned, 9-7, by Harvey’s Elliot Dockter.
Kyle Cook, who competed at 152 pounds, lost a 10-8 overtime decision to No. 6-ranked Mark Hastings of Hillsboro in his first match. Cook was eliminated from the tournament when he lost a 9-5 decision to Grafton’s Noah Flores.
At 182 pounds, Connor Dennis got off to a hot start as he picked up a first round pin against LaMoure’s Landon Smith. Dennis then lost to Lisbon’s Soren McDaniel which sent him to the consolation bracket, where he was decisioned in a must-win situation against Kenmare’s Ty Jesz.
Sophomore Jackson Faller lost his opening round match at 285 pounds to Lisbon’s Taylon Sad, before bouncing back to pin Velva’s Nick Hodges. Faller was then decisioned, 3-0, by Pembina County North’s Alex Dubourt, the No. 7-ranked wrestler, to be eliminated from the tournament just one match short of the placing rounds.