The numbers are in, and what seemed to be a tight North Dakota Class A Individual Tournament team race now has a Century route as the most likely scenario based on the release of yesterday’s brackets. The Patriots have six wrestlers seeded first or second in the tournament starting Thursday morning and thirteen of fourteen scoring wrestlers seeded overall, for a projected point total of 231. Mandan, projected to finish second by a razor thin margin over Minot and Bismarck High, trails the Patriots by 51.5. With that robust point projection, it is certainly possible that Century could fall 15 -20 points short. The question is whether or not any of the other teams in the race can get close to 200 and make it a race on Saturday.
With 11 wrestlers seeded overall, and five in the top three, Mandan does have some upside to finish higher than their projection. Both 145 Isaac Berger and 113 Will Kleinknecht lost matches at the West Region tournament that lowed their seeds by on slot. Berger, who hadn’t lost to a North Dakota opponent all year long, was defeated by Williston’s Roy Isom in the West Region final and as a result had his seed dropped to second. Berger is certainly capable of winning the title from the two seed, but the road will be more difficult. I the 113 West Region final, Will Kleinknecht ran into the buzzsaw that has been Century’s Devin Schulz recently, and as a result his seed also dropped. Mandan will need Kleinknecht to step up in a potential rematch with Schulz, and then in a finals match with West Fargo’s JJ Harms, if the Braves are to make up some ground on the Patriots.
Minot High, projected to finish six points behind Mandan for third place, may have the best opportunity to reach the 200 threshold and give Century a run. The biggest factor in that will be the performance of returning state finalist Creighton Rudolph. Rudolph has had an up and down season and as a result enters the state tournament seeded third, but he does have a win over second seed Parker Wahl (Bismarck) and top seed Cade Pederson (West Fargo). Seeded eighth at 106, I also like the chances of Kelby Armstrong to outpace that slot by as many as three or four positions with a strong weekend. Though his draw isn’t great, I think it is a strong possibility that 120 Cory Hooker finds his way onto the podium in a 120 pound weight class that is wide open after the top three.
Nipping just a half point behind the Magi in fourth place sits the always dangerous Bismarck Demons. Their championship hopes rest on the ability of top seeds Laken Boese (106) and Chase Dockter (120) to hold their positions and win state titles in two weight classes that could go one of three or even four different ways. At 106, Boese fell to St. Mary’s Central’s Reece Barnhardt in West Region title match, and has also had close matches with Mandan senior three seed Karson Mosbrucker. Both Barnhardt and Mosbrucker would be dangerous finals opponents for the Demon sophomore. Dockter finds himself on the same side of the bracket as Minot’s Hunter Swartwout, who he is 1-1 with on the season. Senior Justin Bergquist is also a major player from the sixth seed for the Demons. Bergquist a former state finalist (2015) with a ton of talent, and should he run the gauntlet through Wahpeton’s Kyle Bjugstad and Century’s Cameron Rants and make the finals, Bismarck could vault up the team standings. Unseeded wrestlers Jordan Schmidt (152) and Mason Steckler (170), are in good position based upon their draws, and could sneak on to the podium and add to the Demon point total.
If West Fargo is going to win a state individual title, it will take much more than what the seeds show. Even with five top ranked wrestlers, the Packers still only register 149 team points, or 24 behind Bismarck High.
Projected Team Points Based on Seed
1. Century (231)
2. Mandan (179.5)
3. Minot (173.5)
4. Bismarck (173)
5. West Fargo (149)