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With Lehmanns cleared to wrestle, West Fargo proves why it is No. 1

West Fargo's Tyler Lehmann (top) maneuvers Fargo South's Tanner Jones into a pin Friday night at West Fargo High School. Lehmann pinned Jones in 3:03 to win the 189-pound-class bout. Michael Vosburgh/The Forum

With an investigation ongoing as to whether two of its top wrestlers were eligible to compete, West Fargo still managed to come within a point of first place at the Bismarck Rotary in early January.

Then, with the news last week that Tyler and Preston Lehmann were cleared to play, there was nothing holding the Packers back as they beat Fargo South 45-27 in Friday's dual.

In early January, Fargo North sent a letter to the North Dakota High School Activities Association concerning the possible illegal transfer of Preston and Tyler to West Fargo High School. Preston came from Fargo North while Tyler came from Minnesota wrestling powerhouse Apple Valley. Tyler and Preston's parents owned homes in both north Fargo and West Fargo, and Fargo North questioned the validity of the move.

What followed were a couple tense weeks, as the sides awaited the results from the NDHSAA investigation.

"It was a very anxious time for our wrestling team and the Lehmanns and the coaches," said Curtis Jones, Activities Director for West Fargo High School.

In a letter dated Jan. 11, and sent to both Fargo North and West Fargo, concerns were put at ease.

"Based on the information ...I believe this to be a legitimate move by the Lehmann family and varsity eligibility for the two sons will continue," wrote Sherman Sylling, Executive Secretary for the NDHSAA.

"It's a big relief for us and I'm sure it is for the family," Jones said. "When we heard about the letter, we immediately contacted the family and they were relieved ...they just wanted to be over this."

Though some may wonder if the investigation had a negative impact on the Packers, West Fargo wrestling coach Kayle Dangerud assures that the effect on his team was nil.

"There was no change, before or after," he said. "The only thing the kids control is how they compete, and they've been doing an excellent job this year."

And how. Flawless in duals with four wins in the EDC and eight overall, West Fargo has quickly become the favorite to knock off long-standing Bismarck from its proverbial perch on the State Champion throne.

With its win over the Bruins (3-1 EDC, 7-1), the Packers came closer to doing just that.

Though the dual was tighter than most West Fargo had seen this season, the Packers' top wrestlers didn't disappoint. Of its eight match wins, seven came by pin, including Trevor Kringle, Tom Kuehn, Zach Neer, Scott Schiller and Preston, Eric and Tyler Lehmann. Jordan Johnston at 125 was the lone Packer to win by decision, 10-4 over Jacob Merritt.

Prior to the dual, Fargo South and West Fargo were the lone overall unbeatens in the EDC. Fargo North - though it has dropped two non-conference duals - remains the only unbeaten team besides the Packers in the East Region.

Barring any catastrophic injuries, West Fargo has a solid chance of topping Fargo North (3-0, 4-2) when they meet Feb. 4. During the Rumble on the Red and Bismarck Rotary, the Spartans placed 41st and 17th, respectively. The Packers, on the other hand, took second at both.

These comparatives certainly don't secure the Packers a win over North, however.

West Fargo now goes on a three-day stretch of competition. First, it has a non-conference dual at 7 p.m., Thursday in Moorhead. Then the Packers head north for the Grand Forks Multiple tournament. West Fargo's schedule at the tournament is as follows:

• Jan. 22: Dickinson, 3 p.m.; Mandan, 6 p.m.

• Jan. 23: Williston, 10:30 a.m.; Bismarck High, noon; TMCHS (Belcourt), 1:30 p.m.