Tuesday afternoon at practice the Bemidji wrestlers entertained themselves with a few spirited head-to-head battles.
The matches were officiated by the coaches who made up the rules of engagement along the way. There were no roster positions at stake. Instead, the matches were held to provide a fun way to close the 2010-11 practice schedule.
"We're not going to add anything at this point in the season," said Lumberjacks coach Rance Bahr. "We're just having a little fun."
BHS is one of only eight Class 3A teams which held a full team practice Tuesday. The Jacks met the others Wednesday when all of the state tournament teams registered at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Today Bemidji will get a close look at Prior Lake as the Jacks will square off against the Section 2 representative in the 11 a.m. state quarterfinals.
Today's other lower-bracket match-up pits Apple Valley of Section 3 against White Bear Lake of Section 4. Apple Valley enters the state meet as the favorite as it is 34-0 and ranked No. 1 in Minnesota and No. 1 in the country.
Today's upper-bracket quarterfinals see St. Michael-Albertville of Section 7 battling Centennial of Section 5 and Albert Lea of Section 1 facing Hopkins of Section 6.
Joining Apple Valley as ranked teams in today's field are No. 2 St. Michael-Albertville, No. 3 Albert Lea and No. 4 Prior Lake.
Class 3A will stage its championship and consolation semifinals at 1 p.m. today. The consolation final and third-place match are set for 5 p.m. while the championship will be decided at 7 p.m.
Bemidji (21-9) has a favorable first-round draw in Prior Lake (22-10) although the Lumberjacks will be an underdog. Bahr, his coaches and the athletes, however, are eagerly awaiting the challenges that come from advancing to the state meet.
"We are very excited," Bahr said. "We're looking forward to this opportunity.
"Our hope is to go to state and be competitive. Our strength is our balance. We do not have many super stars but we also do not have many holes."
Bemidji's lone hole will come at the lower weights. During the section meet BHS was forced to forfeit a weight because of an injury and state high school rules dictate that any forfeit in the section meet must be a forfeit at state.
Consequently, the Lumberjacks will be behind 6-0 before any match begins.
Bahr is looking at forfeiting the 160-pound match but he will make the final decision during the meet.
The probable lineup for today's quarterfinal sees Tyler O'Beirne at 103, Michael Fogarty at 112, Logan Crosby at 119, Jake Crosby at 125, Ryle Masterson at 130, Craig Maas at 135, Colton Doty at 140, Kade Johnson at 145, Kodi Craft at 152, a likely forfeit at 160, Tyler Molitor at 171, Brenden Fredriksen at 189, Nick Maggert at 215 and Alex Johnson at heavyweight.
If Bahr juggles his lineup to move the forfeit to another weight, Dustin Greenman will wrestle at 160.
"We've made huge strides this year and this is a great opportunity for the kids to experience the hype and enjoy the state tournament," Bahr said. "Hopefully this year will be the start of a wrestling tradition in Bemidji."
The state team tournament is today but Friday and Saturday Bemidji will be represented at the individual meet by senior Jake Crosby at 125 and junior Colton Doty at 140.
Crosby will take a 30-11 record into his opener against Tyler Tischer (15-4) of Cambridge.
Doty (28-7) will face Colten LaChance (19-3) of Hastings who is ranked second in the state at 140 pounds.
"I hope I can keep the matches close and put myself in a position to win them," Doty said. "I'm up against the No. 2 guy in the state and it would surprise some people if I beat him. I'm going to give it my best and see how things work out."
Crosby believes that he could place at state and is hoping to start off on a positive note.
"Realistically, I'd like to be in the top eight at the very least," he said."I think I have a good draw in the first match but if I beat him (Tischer) I'll probably meet the returning state champion."
Both Doty and Crosby are happy to be wrestling as individuals but they are ecstatic that the team qualified for the state meet.
"I'm more excited for the team than about the individuals," Doty said. "It feels so much better to have everybody going down."
"Making state shows just how team-oriented we are," Crosby said. "We are sending only two wrestlers as individuals but we qualified as a team. We even had a forfeit in our lineup. That shows how determined we were as a team."