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WRESTLING: Bemidji wins 5 brackets, team title at first-ever Blue Ox Girls Invite

“It feels good that girls can have something, because we've been competing a lot with the other guys,” BHS junior Kylie Donat said.

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Bemidji junior Kylie Donat wrestles her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – Seventeen girls wrestling teams took to the mats on Saturday at the BHS Gymnasium, marking the first-ever Blue Ox Girls Invite – also the first all-girls wrestling tournament held in Bemidji. And fittingly for an event named after a staple of the First City on the Mississippi, the Bemidji High School girls wrestling team topped the inaugural field.

The Lumberjacks claimed the team crown with a combined 199 individual points, separating from second-place Mora (108) and third-place Wadena-Deer Creek (73).

“It feels good that girls can have something, because we've been competing a lot with the other guys,” BHS junior Kylie Donat said. “It feels good that we have an all-girls tournament besides sections and state. The vibes in the whole place, to see how many girls have come out this year and started wrestling, there's a whole lot more girls, which is so great. And I love it, because I think wrestling is a great sport – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Wrestling is one of the toughest sports out there that you can do.”

Bemidji also had individual champions in several weight classes. Makaya Gotchie took first at 107 pounds, Kiera Hagman topped the 114-pound field, Jadyn Kelly was victorious at 145, Donat won at 152 and Maya Schmidt triumphed at 185.

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Bemidji eighth-grader Makaya Gotchie wrestles her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“It was a good tournament,” BHS head coach Rance Bahr said of the five-plus hour affair. “It took some time. We had a lot of pins in there, and everyone has to get a 45-minute rest in between matches, per Minnesota State High School League rules. So it stretched out a little longer than we would have liked. But we had about 150 girls total. … A lot of good wrestling, girls got in four or five matches and good competition. So it was exciting and a good time.”

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The Jacks compiled a number of other top-three finishes. Tori Bahr was the runner-up at 132 pounds, and Leah Willard took second in the 165-pound bracket. Amber Kremper (100), Brenalen Fredriksen-Holm (107), Dez Puffe (138) and Brie Leeper (185) each placed third in their respective weight classes.

Donat defeated Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie’s Abby Ervasti, a finalist at last year’s state tournament, in the second round of the 152-pound group’s round-robin format, pinning Ervasti 5:13 into their match.

“A lot of it is cardio,” Donat said of the key to her success. “And just mindset. Mindset is the biggest thing. I mean, you can learn moves, but if you don't believe in yourself before you walk out on the mat, you've lost the match already. One of the biggest things in wrestling is believing in yourself.”

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Bemidji eighth-grader Brenalen Fredriksen-Holm wrestles her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Coach Bahr was so pleased with turnout at the event that he hopes the MSHSL will soon consider officially sanctioning girls wrestling team competition, in addition to the individual bracket tournaments established for the first time last winter.

“I sure hope so,” he said. “That's my hope. That's my goal, is to bring the girls team down to the dual state tournament, just like what the boys have.”

Bemidji’s boys and girls will next compete at the Rumble on the Red Invite on Thursday, Dec. 29, in Fargo, N.D.

Team Results (Top 10)

1-Bemidji 199; 2-Mora 108; 3-Wadena-Deer Creek 73; 4-Sauk Center/Melrose 67; 5-Park Rapids 66; 6-Moorhead 52; 7-Pierz 31; 8-Mille Lacs 29; 9-Nashwauk-Keewatin 28; 10-Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 25.

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Bemidji sophomore Amber Kremper wrestles her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji sophomore Brie Leeper wrestles her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji sophomore Tasha Seversen grapples with her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji sophomore Imrie Mistic grapples with her opponent during an invite on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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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