Wrestlers reflect on title, look on to next season
It has been almost two months since the Packers wrestling team completed the North Dakota State Tournament with a state record 17 placers, three individual champions and their second consecutive team championship.
Sophomore Weston Dobler took his first state title in the 145-pound weight class.
Jordan Shearer, also a sophomore, won his fourth consecutive individual title at 126 pounds.
Senior 182-pounder Preston Lehmann capped off his high-school wrestling career with a perfect 50-0 season and his third straight individual championship.
“It feels nice, especially since it was my senior year,” Lehmann said. “It was really special to end it on top in my hometown.”
Despite all the accolades earned by the team, the Packers do not want to dwell on what was.
“It’s great to have that first individual title,” Dobler said. “It’s done. It’s over. It’s time to move on and get the next one.”
“The important thing with these guys is, while they are proud of their accomplishments, they are moving forward,” head coach Kayle Dangerud said. “They are focused on their goals for next season already, and that is the right mentality.”
The three champions agreed that the individual titles were great, but the team victory was their highlight of the weekend.
“It was better because we all won,” Lehmann said. “West Fargo doesn’t have three champions, it has 17 champions. That’s a huge thing.”
“This time didn’t really stand out as an individual, but as a team it meant something to be able to defend that title,” Shearer said. “It really says something about the team as a whole. We have so much depth.”
The team will lose six seniors – Lehmann, Shelby Schulz, Trevor Kringlie, Zach Eider, Juan Rodriguez and Nathan Mugavero – this spring, but Shearer foresees only one outcome for next season: a third consecutive title for the Packers.
“Every school is losing seniors. We just have to keep the intensity over the summer.”
Lehmann will stay local and wrestle for NDSU – alongside his older brother Tyler – next season, but plans to earn a similar amount of success.
“I don’t have to worry about homesickness, and my brother is there,” Lehmann said. “I’m just going to keep working hard and, hopefully, win a national championship... multiple times.”
Dangerud realizes what his team is losing in those seniors, but also believes his team has the will and the work ethic to pick up where they left off.
“On paper, we lose six point-scorers, but we have plenty of guys coming up,” Dangerud said. “Bismarck High will be the favorite going into next season, but our goal is to outwork them and the rest of the state. Hopefully that will put us over the top.”