126 pounds was widely considered to be the toughest bracket at this year’s Intermat JJ Classic. The weight boasted four state champions; two with two titles to their name and another that went undefeated for his first in AAA Minnesota last season. In the end, Bismarck High junior Ryan Ripplinger bested them all, winning by fall over Reid Ballantyne of Stillwater (MN) in 3:30. The match could have started better for Ripplinger, who was a double All American at the Cadet level over the summer. Ballantyne scored a takedown and two back points, grabbing an 4-0 lead in the first ten seconds. The freshman phenom from Minnesota then scored a questionable second takedown to widen the gap further, 6-1. Ripplinger was able to escape and make good on a second slide by after to narrow the gap to 6-4 at the period break. In the second, Ballantyne chose down and Ripplinger got to work from his best position. After working a tough half ride for over a minute, the Demon finally capitalized with with a crab ride to a half that he buried for the fall. Ballantyne hadn’t lost a Folkstyle match in some time, having gone a perfect 45-0 in his eight grade season at Stillwater.
Ripplinger overcame another state champion, Pipestone’s Hunter Burnett, 60 in advancing to the final. Burnett has’t lost an in-season high school match in two years.
Also in that bracket, Minot High two-time state champion Brody Armstrong finished fourth. Armstrong started strong in his semifinal bout with the aforementioned Ballantyne, but was outgunned after the first and fell by 13-6 decision. Armstrong lost to Burnett 9-2 in the consolation final. This was Armstrong’s first live work since missing the summer recovering from injury.
Another Bismarck Demon, senior Devin Steidler, brought home second at 145. Steidler fell to Shakopee’s Alex Lloyd in the final. Lloyd is currently ranked third in the country at 145, and is a South Dakota State commit.
The other North Dakota placewinner was Minot’s Kelby Armstrong at 106. Seeded sixth, Armstrong advanced all the way to the semifinals before losing two of his last three bouts and finishing fifth. Armstrong will be the Class A frontrunner at 106 this season after placing fifth there last year.