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WRESTLING: Bemidji sweeps 3 duals to open Rick Lee Invite at Sanford Center

The Rick Lee Invite, heralded for its history and tradition in the Bemidji community, began a new chapter at Sanford Center. The ice was gone, and eight wrestling mats adorned the glassless rink.

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Bemidji senior Hunter Heim wrestles his opponent during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – The biggest wrestling show in town rolled into the Sanford Center on Friday night.

The Rick Lee Invitational, heralded for its history and tradition in the Bemidji community, began a new chapter at the home of Bemidji State hockey. But this time, the ice was gone, and eight wrestling mats adorned the glassless rink.

The Bemidji High School boys wrestling team took full advantage of its first home meet of the season, sweeping United North Central, Thief River Falls and Tracy-Milroy to give its hometown fans plenty to cheer about.

“Team-wise, we wrestled very well,” BHS head coach Rance Bahr said. “We were just a little better, a little more balanced than the teams that we were wrestling today, which helped out a lot. But we had some individual matchups that went very well and went in our favor against some highly ranked opponents. Our kids stepped up and wrestled through a six-minute match, and some of them came out on top. So I thought we did very well overall.”

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The Lumberjacks watch eighth-grader Makaya Gotchie wrestle during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Lumberjacks defeated United North Central 53-21, Thief River Falls 45-22 and Tracy-Milroy 48-22 in a typically dominant stretch. One year after going a perfect 7-0 at the 2022 Rick Lee, the Jacks look poised to do it again.

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“We've been all over the Midwest, and it feels good to be home,” senior wrestler Seth Newby said. “We have to go other places to get the teams that we want to see.”

“It's been nice,” Bahr said. “Two weeks ago, we were in Fargo for three days and then in Wisconsin for three days. We haven't had a home meet yet. So it's nice to be at home, stay at our own homes and just be here in front of our home fans. … You can't beat the venue for the fans. You can't beat the state tournament feel for the kids, and those (things) are really important.”

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Bemidji senior Seth Newby grapples with his opponent during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Newby marked his sixth career Rick Lee appearance with a perfect 3-0 day, winning matches by pin at both 170 and 182 pounds, all of which came in the first period of action. With only one more chance to savor the spectacle as a competitor, he made sure to soak it in.

“It's a whole different atmosphere than the high school,” Newby said. “It's a big stadium feel. You’ve got the fans up in the stands, and it's a cool experience. … It's a little surreal (that it’s my last one), but I just keep moving forward every day.”

As a group, Bemidji is looking to build confidence ahead of the section tournament. The Lumberjacks lost a heartbreaking decision to Willmar in last season’s section final at the BHS Gymnasium, and they’re doing every thing in their power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We're looking to get bonus points when they're available and when the opportunity arises,” Bahr said. “We're looking to not give up bonus points. We're looking to score on the edge of the mat, score specifically at the end of periods. Those are all things that we work on – understanding situations in close matches, what we should be doing or what we should avoid doing.”

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Bemidji freshman Gabe Morin's arm is raised after winning a match during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Our goals are always focused on the end of the year,” Newby added, “so just getting better every day and working to the state tournament at the end of the year.”

Several wrestlers picked up three wins for the Jacks. Gabe Morin went 3-0 with three pins at 113 pounds, as did Nick Strand at 120 and Coy Olsen at 182. Alec Newby also went 3-0 at 138, with Dane Jorgensen joining him at 160.

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Bemidji resumes competition at the Rick Lee at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, back at the Sanford Center.

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Bemidji sophomore Alec Newby wrestles his opponent during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji 53, United North Central 21

106: Levi Olson (UNC) over Makaya Gotchie, Fall 1:41

113: Gabe Morin (BHS) over Cooper Rife, Fall 1:59

120: Nick Strand (BHS) over Rhett Anderson, Fall 1:11

126: Gavin Osborn (BHS) over Zach Hendrickson, Dec 5-1

132: Brody Castonguay (BHS) over Aaron Lake, Fall 1:19

138: Alec Newby (BHS) over Wyatt Olson, Dec 3-1

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145: Ricky Wuori Jr. (BHS) over Zach Davidson, Fall 1:34

152: Hank Tellers (UNC) over Talen Fairbanks, Fall 5:31

160: Dane Jorgensen (BHS) over Toby Isola, TF 16-0

170: Seth Newby (BHS) over Eli Roiko, Fall 1:31

182: Coy Olsen (BHS) over Mason Plautz, Fall 0:48

195: Barrick Nelson (BHS) won by forfeit

220: Ryan Peterson (UNC) over Kayden Parson, Fall 3:19

285: Marcus Peterson (UNC) over Tom Paquette, Dec 1-0

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Bemidji eighth-grader Makaya Gotchie wrestles her opponent during the Rick Lee Invitational on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji 45, Thief River Falls 22

106: Lincoln Davis (TRF) over Brenalen Fredriksen-Holm, Fall 5:13

113: Gabe Morin (BHS) over Landen Larson, Fall 1:34

120: Nick Strand (BHS) over Nick Svir, Fall 1:36

126: Noah Jacobson (TRF) over Hunter Heim, Dec 6-5

132: Gavin Osborn (BHS) over Keigan Hermanson, MD 16-3

138: Alec Newby (BHS) over Owen Dvorak, Fall 1:24

145: Kale Geiser (TRF) over Ricky Wuori Jr., MD 16-4

152: Ethan Lane (TRF) over Talen Fairbanks, Dec 6-0

160: Dane Jorgensen (BHS) over Brennen Johnson, TF 19-4

170: Kehan Nelson (TRF) over Kallen Littler, Dec 12-5

182: Seth Newby (BHS) over Riley Poissant, Fall 1:16

195: Coy Olsen (BHS) over Josh Herrera, Fall 1:30

220: Carter Engebretson (TRF) over Barrick Nelson, Dec 7-0

285: Tom Paquette (BHS) won by forfeit

Bemidji 48, Tracy-Milroy 22

106: Makaya Gotchie (BHS) over Nolan Verlinde, Dec 15-12

113: Gabe Morin (BHS) over Troy Gillette, Fall 0:48

120: Nick Strand (BHS) over Nevin Marten, Fall 0:39

126: Hunter Heim (BHS) over David Schuh, Fall 0:46

132: Devin Carter (TM) over Brody Castonguay, Dec 6-3

138: Alec Newby (BHS) over Damian Alatriste, MD 12-3

145: Alexander Schuh (TM) over Ricky Wuori Jr., SV-1 10-8

152: Jacob Meyer (TM) over Talen Fairbanks, MD 10-0

160: Dane Jorgensen (BHS) over Kalvin Crumrine, TF 18-2

170: Seth Newby (BHS) over Zachary Swanson, Fall 0:47

182: Coy Olsen (BHS) over Isaiah Wolske, Fall 0:23

195: Eathan Martinez (TM) over Kohen Donat, Fall 1:28

220: Kayden Parson (BHS) over Bryce Edwards, Fall 2:44

285: Nick Willhite (TM) over Tom Paquette, Fall 2:19

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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