BEMIDJI -- At the end of Monday’s practice, Bemidji High School wrestling head coach Rance Bahr acknowledged to the team that he knows it’s been a long season.
But, as he noted, that’s what happens when you qualify for state.
“The reward is that we get to continue wrestling. The sacrifice is we also have to continue practicing,” Bahr said. “It’s a little bittersweet because you’re extending your season and you have to continue to put in the hard work we’ve put in all year long. … But we also have to take care of business.”
The Lumberjacks are racking up overtime ahead of the Class 3A state team tournament, where BHS will compete on Minnesota’s biggest stage for the second year in a row.
Six individuals will also be pulling double duty as participants in the state individual tournament. Seth Newby (138 pounds), Thade Osborn (145), Colton Hinrichs (160), Darren Roth (152), Clay Olsen (182) and Chase Smith (285) will all try to add to the program’s current list of five individual state champions.
“We’ve had hard practices all year,” Newby said. “We’ve been training for this. Now that we’ve made it, we get to relax and have some fun. This is it.”
The team tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Unseeded Bemidji meets No. 2 seed St. Michael-Albertville in the first round, a rematch of last season’s third-place match at state.
The Jacks finished fourth in 2019, tied for the program’s best-ever finish. And now in the return trip, there’s more going for them than before.
“There’s not as much of a wow factor when you walk into that building and see everything and everybody,” Bahr said. “They know the routine, they know what’s going to happen. … We’ll be a little more prepared probably than we were last year and a little more focused on the wrestling part of it.”
“We definitely have more confidence going in,” Smith added. “We’ve been there before, we know what it’s like to be there. … I’m really excited. I can’t wait.”
The individual tournament runs Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29, with the action beginning at 9 a.m. daily and running through 8:30 p.m. Saturday for the state championship matches.
“Last year, we didn’t know what we were going to see, but now we know how to prepare for it,” said Newby, who also qualified as an individual in 2018. “I’ve wrestled some good kids this year, so I know I can hang with them.”
Newby clinched his individual spot at state with a championship pin in the section tournament, while the other five qualifiers earned appearances with second-place section finishes.
With a program-record 27 wins already in hand, there’s reason to have confidence going into the tournament. And this year’s six individual qualifiers is tied for Bemidji’s second-most since 2003-04, which makes a statement, too.
“We’ve had a lot of great teams come through the wrestling room,” Bahr said, “so to set that new record with wins in a season is very exciting and a great accomplishment for the young men on the team this year. It lets us know we can compete with anybody.”
“The whole team has everyone’s back,” Smith added. “(Our goal) is to do as best as we can. Be one, have some fun and see what we’re made of.”