Posted 1/20/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
The Watford City wrestlers competed in Rugby this past weekend at the “Geographical Center of North America” Tournament, a 24-team tournament including 21 Class B schools and three from Class A. The tournament was one of the largest tournaments held in North Dakota that is exclusively made up of North Dakota teams.
Overall, the Wolves had four individuals who made it to the placing rounds, finishing in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Three others finished one win shy of reaching the placing rounds.
Liam Shannon manned the 106-pound weight class for the Wolves, and kicked things off by picking up two consecutive wins to reach the quarterfinal round of the event, before losing to Tanner Urlaub from Pembina County North. Shannon then dropped his next match as well, to finish 2-2 overall and finish one win away from the placing rounds.
CJ Thacker, who competed at 113 pounds, had a tough draw into the bracket as he matched up against the top ranked wrestler in his weight class, and eventual champion in Linton’s Brandon Oien. Thacker then lost a 7-3 decision in his second match to get knocked out of the tournament.
Dakota Garmann had a good showing at 120 pounds. He lost his first match to Minot Bishop Ryan’s Wyatt LeDouux, who is currently ranked fourth in the state. Garmann stormed back to win his next two bouts, before losing to Aaron Dean of Velva, and finishing one win shy of placing.
Jade Hepper, who competed at 126 pounds for the Wolves, entered the tournament as the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the field, but his bracket featured eight returning state place winners from a year ago, so there would be no easy matches. Hepper defeated Wahpeton’s Gavin LeNoue in the quarterfinals by a 10-6 margin.
In the semifinals, he matched up with Bishop Ryan’s Aaron Sandy, which was a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal matchup for Hepper. After a scoreless first period, Hepper managed to score five points in the second period, and held on to win by a final score of 5-1 to advance to the finals. The championship bout pitted Hepper against Brett Vervill from Pembina County North. Verville, a state runner-up from last year, came into the tournament as the top ranked wrestler in the state and sported an undefeated record. Hepper controlled the match from the onset, scoring the first points with a double-leg takedown. Hepper added an escape and two more takedowns throughout the match, while only surrendering three points, all on escapes, to earn a 7-3 win. The win marked the fifth tournament that Hepper has won this season.
At 132 pounds, Logan Gumke got off to a fast start with a technical fall in the first round and a 17-10 win, before dropping his first decision in the quarterfinals. Gumke then bounced back with a pin to advance to the placing rounds. He lost his next match to Des Lacs/Burlington’s Kole Johnson, and finished strong with a pin in the seventh place match over Napoleon’s Nathan Weigel.
Coleton Jore competed hard in the event as he received a first round bye, and then won his next match. He dropped his quarterfinal matchup, but rebounded with another win to advance to the placing rounds. Jore lost an overtime match to continue advancing, and then was defeated in the seventh place match by Stanley’s Brad Ladwig to finish in eighth place.
Clay Jorgenson competed in the 152-pound weight class, which was one of the most difficult weight classes in the tournament. Joregenson dropped his first match to Eugene Fleetwood of Turtle Mountain, which sent him to the consolation bracket where he met up with regional rival David Arthur from Killdeer. Jorgenson defeated Arthur, 4-2, to take a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head matchups on the season. Jorgenson then earned a pin to advance, before losing a 2-1 decision to Rugby’s Reid Mundahl, which knocked him out of the tournament.
Connor Dennis and Austin Huseby each competed at 170 pounds. They both finished with 0-2 records in the event.
Jake Belland had a fine tournament going 3-2 overall. Belland picked up a first round pin, before avenging an early season loss to Tioga’s Jaryn Rassmussen in the quarterfinals. The top ranked wrestler in the state, Napoleon’s Nick Becker, pinned Belland in the semifinals. Belland bounced back to defeat Bishop Ryan’s Nathan Lee to advance to the third place match, where he was defeated by Turtle Mountain’s Brandon Rodriguez.
Jackson Faller rounded out the action by competing at heavyweight. He dropped his opening round matchup, and then advanced via injury default after his opponent from Devil’s Lake was hurt in a previous match and could not compete. Faller lost his third match to drop to 1-2 overall in the event.
The Wolves finished in 12th place out of 24 teams competing in the tournament.
The Wolves will be back in action Friday and Saturday as they host two events. On Friday, Watford City will host Beulah/Hazen and Bowman County in a triangular dual event, which will be the team’s “Parents Night.”
On Saturday, the Wolves host the Levi Wisness Classic wrestling tournament that will feature eight area teams. Wrestling action kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday night and at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the high school gymnasium.