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Season Preview: Wrestling

West Fargo erupts after winning the dual championship at the 2009-10 state wrestling tournament in Fargo.

There's no mystery about the Packers wrestling squad. For years, they've been one of the top Class A teams in North Dakota.

But in the same breath, there always has been one school that got under West Fargo's skin: Bismarck. The Demons are an unrelenting force on the mat, and have had the state by a stranglehold for more than a decade.

That is, until last year.

The Packers took down Bismarck during the state tournament and brought home a duals title. The Demons still came away with the overall individual championship, but for once they proved they were, indeed, human.

This was thanks in part to West Fargo's deep pool of talent. From top to bottom, the Packers had weapons in nearly every weight category. They were flawless during the season, ending the year 7-0 in EDC play and 15-0 overall, as well as being crowned East Region champs.

Which could make this season quite a mystery. While the Packers return six state placers and more than a dozen qualifiers, two of the biggest names from last year's team are gone: Scott Schiller and Tyler Lehmann.

From an outsider's view, West Fargo should be pretty well off after losing just three seniors. But the absences of Schiller and Lehmann leave gaping holes.

Schiller was a three-time state champion, as well as a three-time All-Conference wrestler. He went 43-0 last year en route to the individual title at 215, and was 165-27 for his career.

Lehmann transferred from Apple Valley (Minn.) High School to West Fargo for his senior year. He finished with a title at 189 pounds at state, adding to the long resume of success from his previous high school.

Even with the loss of these two dynamos, the Packers are packed with talent across the board.

West Fargo will be led by a slew of seniors, including Tom Kuehn, Zach Neer, Zach T. Vetter, Seth Pegg, Jordan Gleason, Tim Sola, Ransi Thomas and Zach G. Vetter.

Kuehn was runner-up at 125 pounds in last year's state tournament, and finished the season 39-9 overall. Kuehn is slated to move up to 135 pounds this year.

Jordan Shearer is West Fargo's only returning state champ. The then seventh-grader wrestled at 103, and finished the season with a 38-10 record as well as All-Conference honors. Shearer will get the chance to defend his state title this year, as he will stay at 103.

Sophomore Preston Lehmann is the Packers' other returning runner-up. Wrestling at 160 last season, Preston Lehmann accrued a 40-6 record and also earned All-EDC honors. He will move up to 171 this year.

The other state placers included Trevor Kringlie (fourth at 103), Jordan Johnston (sixth at 119), and Lucas Monson (seventh at 112).

But the Packers will be up against some serious competition in the state. Fargo North may be the team to beat in the East, as they lost just one senior. Fargo South also will be able to hold its own, as will Wahpeton and Valley City.

Bismarck, however, may return the most power. According to West Fargo coach Kayle Dangerud, the Demons bring back more than 160 points from last year's state tournament.

No, this year will be no walk in the park for West Fargo, but they have enough weapons to put up a good fight.