Packers' plan for state: "Just wrestle"
Being a higher seed does not always put a team in a favored position.
This much is true for the West Fargo wrestling team, which despite earning the top seed out of the East, is viewed by many as a longshot to capture a championship heading into the Class A State Tournament at the FargoDome this week.
During the regular season, the four teams representing the East at state, West Fargo, Valley City, Grand Forks Central and Fargo Davies, wrestled West representatives Bismarck, Dickinson, Bismarck Century and Minot a total of 12 times in dual matches. The West went a perfect 12-0 in those matches.
State officials clearly took such head-to-head dominance into account when making their final poll, where tournament qualifiers from the West occupied the top-four spots in the rankings.
Listed on top of those rankings is Bismarck, a heavy favorite to win a fifth-consecutive Class A title this weekend.
But if the East's chances are viewed as grim from the outside, Packer coach Ben Berogan isn't allowing such negativity to creep into the psyche of his wrestlers, even if he acknowledges the tall task in front of them.
"I'm honestly optimistic," Berogan said. "On paper, when you look at it...I think the rankings are as they should be. But you never know who's going to show up and compete (and) we've got some guys that are really wrestling well."
Two Packers expected to make a big splash throughout the weekend are Cade Pederson and Tyler Porter, both fresh off of championships at the 182- and 106-pound weight classes at the Class A East Region Tournament over the weekend.
The Packers finished third as a team at the East Region with a score of 208.5, coming in behind Grand Forks Central (223) and Fargo Davies (217.5).
Pederson, a former champion at 160 with a record of 23-2 on the year, will enter as the No. 1 seed at 182, where he will look to cap a stellar high school career by collecting more state hardware. Porter, who went unbeaten against EDC opponents during the season, comes in as the No. 4 seed with a mark of 24-5.
Berogan is also expecting strong performances from peaking talent like Cole Irwin (113) and Tanner Nein (132), unranked wrestlers who lost narrow championship bouts at the East Region. Irwin fell 9-7 to Clayto Nisko of Fargo Davies, with Nein dropping a 3-2 decision to Fargo North's Chase Hansen.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Packer optimism is a competitive showing in a previous match with first-round opponent Minot. Despite a 34-27 loss at the Metro Duals last month, 12 of the points the Packers allowed came via forfeits at 160 and 170, classes not expected to go unoccupied Thursday.
"From a team standpoint, we feel pretty good," Pederson said about facing the Magicians again. "We match up pretty well with them. Now it's just about going out and doing what you've trained to do all year."
The keep things simple motto seems to have spread throughout the West Fargo locker room by wrestlers eager to prove themselves against the top competition in the state.
"We've just got to stay calm and keep confidence up," Porter said. "Just wrestle."