What seemed improbable at best for the Minot High wrestling team after a disappointing Friday at the state tournament that included two dual losses and victories in only one of seven semifinal matches, began to become more and more a reality with each wrestle-back victory Saturday morning. The Magi, who finished Friday evenings semifinal session in third place with 123 team points, 56.5 behind leader Bismarck High, must have had one of the greatest wrestle back performances in tournament history. Six Magi wrestled back for third place, while 106 Kelby Armstrong outperformed his number eight seed for fifth, and the Magi placed thirteen total including state champion Brody Armstrong at 126. The effort was enough to edge second place Century, who had their own fantastic Saturday morning session, and Bismarck High to bring the individual team trophy back to Minot for the first time since 1993.
After a disappointing loss in the third place match of the dual tournament, Minot Head Coach Justin Racine got his team together for a meeting in effort to get things back on the right track. Racine didn’t do the math, but was confident it would take a miracle to win the individual tournament based on the teams scores after Friday.
“I told the boys that we were way better than the performance we put in Friday evening in both the individual semifinals and third place dual,” Racine stated. “I explained that Friday was in the past and that since we had dug such a big hole, if we wrestled to the best of our abilities, we could salvage the tournament and bring home second or third. I told them that Saturday would define what kind of wrestlers this Minot team is.”
Racine, who is a Minot High graduate himself, struck a chord with his wrestlers to the point that many noted in interviews Saturday how important the talk was to their effort on the last day of the season. As the wins started piling up on Saturday, and Bismarck High score stood still (with so many finalists, their wrestle back point potential was limited), the miracle Racine was looking for began to take shape, and going into the medal matches, Minot had already taken a slim lead over the Demons.
With only Brody Armstrong in the finals against seven from Bismarck High, Minot would still need a great placement round to feel comfortable. Racine needed great, and his guys gave him spectacular. Starting with Je-Mario Jones at 195, Minot won three third place matches in a row, followed by a fifth from Kelby Armstrong at 106, a seventh from Corey Hooker at 120, and three more thirds from Tyler Strandberg (132), Jacob Mortensen (138), and Creighton Rudolph (160). By the time the round was over, Minot sat with 205 team points to 195 for now second place Bismarck Century and 188.5 from Bismarck High. Not enough to clinch the title, but certainly enough to feel good going into the finals.
A loss from Demons Justin Bergquist at 182 and #1 ranked 220 Chase Dockter nearly closed the door on the Demons, and when Brody Armstrong won his title over Bismarck’s Adam Deboer at 132, Minot had all but clinched the championship.
Minot finished the state championship with 209 points, four ahead of second place Century, who jumped ahead of Bismarck with Mason Schulz’s 138 pound state championship and stayed there when Cade Pederson of West Fargo defeated Demon Parker Wahl for the 160 title.
The team race everyone had hoped for did in fact happen on the A side, and the Magi did just enough to come out on top.
Brody Armstrong discusses the difficulty of winning his second title in comparison to the first:
Je-Mario Jones on winning his last high school match, and what the Minot program has meant to him:
Hunter Swartwout on finishing third:
Eli Huff discusses his battles with Andre Baguma, and having the target on his back next year
Tyler Strindberg goes out with a third place victory for the Magi:
Jacob Mortensen had the most improbable win of the weekend in his third place match with Williston’s Roy Isom:
Creighton Rudolph reflects on a difficult Friday evening and rebounding Saturday: