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Wrestlers win third straight state title

Kyle Kragnes of West Fargo looks to score a takedown on Bismarck High's Josh Brilz during the dual team championship at the N.D. State Class A Wrestling Tournament in Bismarck. Kevin Cederstrom1 / 2
West Fargo wrestlers react at the state tournament in Bismarck. Kevin Cederstrom2 / 2

The Packer wrestlers filled up some more space in the trophy case this past weekend.

The team took their third consecutive dual state championship on Saturday, beating the Bismarck Demons in the finals 31-25.

The team also finished second in the individual tournament with 252 points, falling to Bismarck by just two points.

“I thought we competed really hard,” head coach Kayle Dangerud said. “I have been really proud of this team all season. We fell a bit short in the individual tournament, but I think it was a really good state tournament.”

The Packers started the weekend with a whopping 63-9 victory over Dickinson in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

They then went on to beat Bismarck Century in the semifinals 56-15 on Friday.

Saturday’s championship dual saw the Packers up by just three points going into the final match: Senior Reed Cronin against Bismarck’s Kael Knowlen at the 126-pound weight class. Cronin brought his best, topping Knowlen 5-0 to secure the team’s victory.

“Reed was unbelievable in that match,” Dangerud said. “He went hard at a tough competitor, and it was awesome to see.”

The Packers five seniors -- Cronin, Kyle Kragnes, Kollin Kragnes, Tanner Kuznia and Anjelo Shepherd -- all picked up a victory in the championship dual. Kyle Kranes managed to beat his opponent by a 14-4 major decision.

“That was an outstanding dual for our seniors, and for them to go out on top like that was amazing,” Dangerud said.

Junior 132-pounder Jordan Shearer made history by winning his fifth consecutive individual state title.

He is now one of just four wrestlers in North Dakota High School history to win five state titles, and the first to do it since 2006. No North Dakota wrestler has ever won six, which Shearer will try for next season.

“He is a great leader for us, and he leads by example,” Dangerud said. “He has been an outstanding competitor all season, and it has been a privilege to coach him.”

While Shearer was the only Packer with with an individual title, West Fargo did have seven other wrestlers finish second: Jared Franek, Jesse Shearer, Weston Dobler, Kollin Kragnes, Kyle Kragnes, Tanner Kuznia and Brandon Metz.

“This year was as strong as we have been from 106 to heavyweight as any team I can remember,” Dangerud said.

While the Packers part ways with five seniors that have been key parts of team for years, Dangerud is confident the team of underclassmen his coaching staff has built will carry on with the West Fargo winning tradition.

“Our goals will be no different,” Dangerud said. “We want to win that championship again. I know the guys are already training. That is just the wrestling culture we have. It is a honor to be a part of it.”