Packers wrestling returns five state champions for new year
Kevin Fynboh says it's cliche, but he strongly believes some of the hardest workers are on the West Fargo wrestling team.
The Packers have five state champions returning to back that up.
West Fargo begins the new wrestling season on Thursday, Dec. 1, against Moorhead at West Fargo High School. From the first day of the season, the Packers are trying to build on the success from last year.
In fact, Fynboh said his wrestlers were asking to start the lifting program before the season started. He said it makes his job much easier when young wrestlers actively engage in the program. They want to follow the successful upperclassmen, he said, who have found their success from the training cycle of two-a-day practices along with consistent weight lifting.
"Iron sharpens iron," Fynboh said. "We want the best competition because that's going to get these guys at their best."
Fynboh said West Fargo peaked at the right time last season—the state tournament. Along with other high finishers, five Packers won individual state championships, and all five of those return—Jesse Shearer, Brandon Metz, Chase Teiken, Jared Franek and Justin Harms. Fynboh said he sees those upperclassmen as mentors for the younger wrestlers who now have another year of experience in the program.
"That'll help us kind of work with some of these less experienced wrestlers," Fynboh said. "It's super exciting. Obviously, I'm super fortunate to be in a situation to work with these guys and how high-caliber they are. They work super hard."
Shearer, a senior captain who's signed to North Dakota State, said the team is looking good but things will only get better with tough tournaments and duals.
"I think how tough we are out on the mat just sets us apart from everyone else," Shearer said. "We're a lot more physical out there than most teams."
Shearer said he is looking for the underclassmen to step up and be game changers this year. He already can rely on his fellow upperclassmen to set the pace.
"We're the leaders in the room," Shearer said. "We have other guys trying to step up too. I'm just trying to be a leader and show the other guys what to do."
Metz, a senior captain who's going to NDSU for football and wrestling, is eager to start his senior year and help his teammates improve.
"The younger and less experienced guys, if we can keep them up and keep getting their confidence and training level up, I think they could make a huge difference come state time," Metz said.
West Fargo has a storied and successful wrestling program, Metz said, and that's because of the team's mental toughness coaches teach. That was the case last year, he said, and he expects the same again this year.
"There's a huge tradition here at West Fargo wrestling," Metz said. "Just from an early age we got introduced into that hard work and breaking you down mentally, which just makes you stronger for the future."
Successful wrestling teams must have the right culture, Fynboh said, and that comes down to leadership and teammates who have each other's back. He believes the Packers has that.
"They know where the bar is set, and they've set it a little higher," Fynboh said. "They don't want to see the program go down on their watch. They keep a high standard and keep the other guys to a high standard."
Head coach: Kevin Fynboh (second year)
Last year's finish: loss in state quarterfinals to Bismarck Century, five individual state champions
Who's gone: Jordan Gianakos, Jacob Franek.
Key returners: Jesse Shearer, Sr.; Brandon Metz, Sr.; Chase Teiken, Sr.; Jared Franek, Jr.; Justin Harms, Jr.; Cade Pederson, Soph.