BEMIDJI -- The season will continue for a number of Bemidji High School wrestlers, as eight Lumberjacks earned state berths at Wednesday’s Section 8-3A Individual Tournament at the BHS Gymnasium.
“We’re excited about it,” Bemidji head coach Rance Bahr said. “It’s great to have that many going, and for that many to have that opportunity. Kind of like it’s been all year long, we’re just very excited to have these opportunities and be able to take eight kids down.”
The top four wrestlers in each weight class earned a spot in the state preliminaries, and the Jacks had qualifiers in over half of their weight classes.
Leading the way were five wrestlers who went 2-0 on the day: Seth Newby (152 pounds), Darren Roth (160), Barrick Nelson (182), Colton Hinrichs (195) and Caleb Bahr (285).
Additionally, three more recovered from a loss and fought their way through the consolation bracket to earn a state bid: Hunter Heim (113 pounds), Noah Leffelman (138) and Hoyt Solum (170).
“I’m excited about the way the kids wrestled today. I thought they did a really nice job,” coach Bahr said. “They reversed some losses from earlier in the year at a couple weights, and increased the margin at some other matches. Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the kids and their ability to come back after that tough loss in the section final.”
That loss was last week’s Section 8-3A championship defeat against Willmar, denying the team three straight section titles, but BHS licked its wounds and had a mightily successful day on Wednesday. And, even better, they got to do it on their home mats.
“It was nice not to be on a bus for five hours today,” coach Bahr said of hosting the individual tournament. “It was good for the kids to be able to go to school for a little while and relax in their home gym. It’s another nice opportunity for our senior parents and senior wrestlers to be able to wrestle at home, in our gym. That was really great and a good opportunity for us.”
Bemidji racked up plenty of pins on the day. Roth, Hinrichs and Caleb Bahr all won both of their matches by fall, with Hinrichs needing just 2:00 total to do the job. Newby also won by fall in his opener and then claimed a 13-0 major decision, while Nelson won by fall and then won a 14-1 major decision.
Heim (12-2 major decision) and Leffelman (fall, 5:03) also won in the first round before second-round losses. But Heim pinned his next opponent in 24 seconds while Leffelman earned a 2-0 decision to clinch state berths through the consolation field.
Solum recovered from a first-round loss, winning by fall and then winning a 10-1 major decision in the ensuing matches to punch his ticket.
Seth Sisneros (120 pounds), JD Kondos (126), Coy Olsen (132), Dane Jorgensen (145) and Nate Schwinghammer (220) all recovered from opening defeats by winning their second matches, but all lost in the final round and were denied a state trip.
The Class 3A Individual State Tournament begins with a preliminary round at noon Saturday, March 21, in Coon Rapids. Section 8 and Section 7 will be paired together in an eight-wrestler field for each weight class, with first place and true-second advancing.
The rest of the state tournament is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
By now, not much will be changing in the wrestling room as the Lumberjacks prepare.
“It’s the same as it’s been all year. We’ll keep plugging away,” coach Bahr said. “You are who you are as far as wrestling. We’re not going to change anything as far as technique or habits. We’ll just keep moving forward, show up with some intensity and a positive attitude and hope for the best.”