PREP WRESTLING: Knights dedicate season to former assistant
Grand Forks Central senior Erik Jones said his team has extra motivation for today's North Dakota state Class A wrestling tournament in Bismarck. Jones and his teammates have dedicated the rest of the season to former assistant coach Devon Daly, ...
Grand Forks Central senior Erik Jones said his team has extra motivation for today's North Dakota state Class A wrestling tournament in Bismarck.
Jones and his teammates have dedicated the rest of the season to former assistant coach Devon Daly, who passed away last Monday at age 26 of a brain tumor.
"No one could work harder than Daly," Jones explained. "He's easily one of the most inspiring guys because of how hard he was willing to work for everything. We really hope to do his name justice this weekend."
The Knights wore shirts to school Wednesday that read "In loving memory of Devon Daly."
"Lots of our guys looked up to him," said junior 152-pounder Bryce Fish. "He was a great coach, who pushed us hard in practice. We were all impacted when he passed away."
Daly, a 2003 Central graduate, was a volunteer assistant for the Knights for four years -- all the way through the beginning of last season.
About five years ago, Daly developed a brain tumor.
Playing on a rugby team at UND, Daly was in Minneapolis and received a kick to the face badly enough that brain damage was feared. When he went to the hospital to check on the injury, the tumor was found.
Daly went through chemotherapy and radiation, eventually having the tumor removed at Duke University. From that point, Daly was cancer-free for more than four years.
About a week before he died, Daly began to experience headaches.
"Sure enough, it was back and growing rapid and worse than ever," Central coach Matt Berglund said. "There have been a lot of tears this week. He's had a huge impact on this group, and that's the truth. He's definitely on their minds."
Knights are underdogs
The Knights open the state meet as the East Region's No. 2 seed in the dual tournament. Central faces the West Region No. 3 seed Bismarck Century at 10 a.m. today.
The Patriots beat the Knights 56-18 early in the season.
"They handled us well in the Sertoma," Berglund said. "We both have very different lineups now. If we wrestle well, it can be a competitive match."
Said No. 1-seeded 160-pounder T.J. Poole: "We can pull this together. We're a group of underdogs. We've already had a couple of upsets."
Individually, the Knights have four wrestlers seeded in the top four at the meet. Poole is seeded first at 160 pounds, followed by Fish seeded second at 152 and Jones seeded third at 152. Kalik Battle is fourth at 113 pounds.
Jones and Fish have each won more than 30 matches this season and could face each other at the state tournament.
"We wrestle in practice every day," Fish said. "We'll just go out and whatever happens, happens."
Poole takes a 38-4 record into the tournament having beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds twice this year.
"I'm not sure anyone has worked harder in the last year than him," Berglund said. "He's been unbelievably dedicated."
Four Riders with high seeds
Grand Forks Red River has four wrestlers seeded in the top four, led by No. 1 seed Bryan Bjerk.
Bjerk, a junior heavyweight, is 38-5 this year -- one season after not winning a match at the state tournament.
"He's an extremely strong kid," Red River coach Bruce Moe said. "He's made a lot of improvements and lifted weights all offseason. He really works hard in the offseason."
Drew Brekhus is seeded third at 195 pounds, while Billy Rerick is seeded third at 145 pounds and Jared Bertsch is seeded fourth at 182 pounds.
Moe said Rerick has a good chance of wrestling past his seed.
"He has a tough weight class, but he can win the tournament," Moe said. "He's been wrestling very well the last month of the season. If he wins, I won't be surprised."
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