Location: Tioga High School
Team Race: Bishop Ryan and Velva have battled for this region rather intensely in recent memory, with Velva coming out on top in each of the last three seasons. For me, the last three Velva titles have been a buildup to this season, where I believe Velva has its strongest team top to bottom in recent memory. Yes, Bishop Ryan has its hammers in #1 ranked upper weights Corbin Okeson and Keegan Henjum, but the depth of Velva throughout fourteen weight classes has me believing we are likely to see an uneventful race in Tioga. The great question for me is whether Velva can make a hard run into the top three at the state tournament.
Toughest Weight: 152
A major piece in the Velva machine this season is 152 Bransyn Yanish. Since moving down to 152 after Christmas, Yanish’s lone in-state loss is via fall to #1 ranked Mark Jochim of South Border in the East/West finals. With that said, Yanish’s two bouts with Des Lac Burlington’s Walter Winkler have been 4-2 (overtime) and 5-3 respectively. Yanish’s lone win over Kenmare-Bowbells’ Skylar Ford was 14-11. Those three make up a strong group of individuals that will battle it out Saturday with major state tournament ramifications for all involved. All three are ranked in the latest NDwrestle Class B poll.
Individual match ups to keep and eye on:
126: #2 Ethan Wonser (Williams County) and #4 Gunnar Mogen (Velva) have wrestled five times this season. Wonser has won all five, so he will be the top seed and deserves the “favorite” tag. The most likely scenario is a 6-4 Wonser win, as that has been the score three times already. Their last bout was a 6-4 overtime win, so Mogen is right there. Both of these guys are title contenders next week in Fargo.
138: Expect a battle between Payton Witt of Des Lacs/Burlington and Keyton Meiers of Stanley. Witt has gotten the best of Meiers in the last two bouts; the last a 2-1 overtime decision at East/West. The winner of this potential bout should score a state tournament seed in the 7/8 range, so there is plenty on the line.
145: What is written above at 138 is also the case for DLB #6 Cale Ibach and unranked Cody Rudolph of Stanley. Ibach holds a 2-0 advantage this season, but the two haven’t wrestled since mid-December. Ibach is likely to grab a seed next week anyway, but taking a Region title from Rudolph would likely lock him into the top eight.
160: #6 Michael Thomas holds a 2-1 match edge over Rugby’s Brady Volk. Volk won the first matchup 6-1, while Thomas won the last two 4-2 and 3-2 respectively.
182: Top ranked state champion Corbin Okeson of Bishop Ryan has been untouched against Class B competition this season. The Lion senior is committed to Division II power St. Cloud.
195: Another Region 3 weight where the number one ranked wrestler is a senior returning state champion. In this case, DLB’s Coy Spooner hasn’t been beaten in since the state tournament his sophomore season. Spooner only has one decision victory on his record this year. One of his few major decisions came against #6 Wyatt Hanson of Velva. Look for Spooner go out a champion against Hanson Saturdat evening.
220: #4 Jeremiah Jesperson (Velva) and #6 Noah Swegarden of Bishop Ryan are the favorites. Jesperson is 2-1 in three tight matches with Swegarden this season.
285: #1 ranked Keegan Henjum of Bishop Ryan holds a 2-1 match advantage over Velva’s Nick Hodges, with the first two matches ending in falls for either wrestler before Henjum won 3-0 in the dual January 23. Hodges’ pin is the lone Class B loss for Henjum this season. Both wrestlers are state title contenders without question, but Henjum is sitting in a great place in that win or lose, he probably goes to state the one seed. A win from Hodges could mean a bump all the way to the bottom of the bracket’s second seed.
What did we miss? What are you looking most forward to this weekend in Tioga?