The North Dakota state Class A and B wrestling tournaments begin Thursday in Fargo. The format is different this year because of COVID-19 but the end result -- a championship -- is still the same for the hundreds of wrestlers that will take to the mats at the Fargodome.
Pembina County North will carry the No. 5 seed into the Class B dual tournament that begins and ends Saturday.
Individually, PCN has one wrestler seeded No. 1 -- 126-pounder Trevor Hinkle, who will take a 22-2 record to state. The Grizzlies have two No. 3 seeds in 145-pounder Jace Horgan (27-1) and 220-pounder Eli Bjornstad (25-1).
“I think we’re sitting pretty good in some of the draws that we got,” said PCN coach Shon Horgan. “Hopefully, we can carry the momentum into the state tournament that we had regional dual and individual tournaments. The kids have been wrestling with a lot of heart lately and hopefully, that can continue this weekend.
In the dual tournament, PCN is the No. 5 seed and will wrestle No. 4 Velva in a quarterfinal match.
“I think it’s a good matchup,” Horgan said. “Velva has a strong program, but I believe we do as well. There’s going to be some key matchups, but we haven’t been able to see them throughout the year in a dual. The last time we met in a tournament we finished ahead of them, but they didn’t have all of their guys. It’s going to be an exciting dual.”
Lisbon will carry the No. 1 seed into the dual tournament and will take on the Northern Lights in the quarterfinals. But the tournament is up for grabs, said Horgan., adding Carrington is unseeded but has traditionally fielded strong tournament teams.
“You have to look at Carrington; they’re unseeded but they could make some noise down there. They’re a strong program with three or four of their guys rated in the top one or two in the state and they are no slouch at all,” said Horgan.
The unpredictability of the tournament increased this season because of COVID. The tournament format has been tweaked in order to adhere to COVID guidelines. Weigh-ins are done by teams and timelines are lengthened to ensure social distancing.
“Our schedule this year was completely turned upside down,” said Horgan. “We had to have two weeks with no competition right before the state tournament, so it’s been two weeks of just practice. The kids all over are going to be hungry to wrestle.
That two-week rest asks this question: Will wrestlers be on top of their game or will they be rusty coming out of the gate?
“As long as their mindsets are there, it’ll be exciting,” said Horgan. “We’re just excited that the pandemic hasn’t shut our tournament down like it did last spring for some of the sports.”
The Class B individual tournament starts Thursday at 9 a.m.