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Gritty Gumke: Jamestown senior seeded No. 1 at 195, a

Jamestown’s Eathan Gumke, rear, is seeded No. 1 at 195 for the Class A state wrestling tournament, which starts today in Bismarck. (Chris Aarhus / The Sun)

Eathan Gumke remembers winning the one-point decision in overtime. The rest is fuzzy.

As he walked past his team’s chairs, he collapsed.

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“The trainer said my blood-sugar was too low,” he recalled.

The dual at Bismarck High in December of 2012 was the first major sign of health problems that plagued him during his junior campaign. In the end, it cost him a trip to the Class A state wrestling tournament.

“I was upset,” Gumke said. “If I would have been 100 percent, I think I would have placed pretty high.”

A year later, Gumke has a giant target on his back. The senior 195-pounder is ranked No. 1 heading into Thursday’s Class A state tournament in Bismarck.

“He’s wrestling with a passion and a mission,” Jamestown coach Larry Eslick said. “He’s really stepped up his focus.”

‘Two steps back’

It was hard to focus last season.

Plagued by low blood-sugar, mononucleosis and “spleen problems,” Gumke never quite felt right, despite going 24-10. He certainly felt better as a sophomore, when he made an impressive run to state, eventually taking fourth place at 170.

“He had a great sophomore year,” Eslick said. “He was consistently in the top four.”

But shortly after football ended, problems arose. The exercise he had grown accustomed to during football season became difficult.

“I felt like I was lagging, like I didn’t have any stamina,” Gumke said. “I went through football and did fine. When wrestling came, it felt like I took two steps back on conditioning.”

Nonetheless, he forged ahead, putting together a quality season including a top finish at a tournament in Valley City, which came a few weeks after his episode in Bismarck.

It all came crashing down after the West Region tournament in early February. That night, he went to the emergency room, where a doctor told him he had swollen lymph nodes from mononucleosis.

“She also told me my spleen was the biggest she had ever seen,” Gumke said. “She said it could have burst when I was wrestling at WDA. She wouldn’t let me wrestle.”

It was a blow to Gumke and also his longtime coach.

“It was really emotional,” Eslick said. “It was tough to take as a coach, too — to see it end unfortunately like that without an opportunity to wrestle at state.”

 Back to work

Gumke spent the rest of the school year taking it easy, eventually clearing up his medical issues. When summer came, it was back to work.

“He went and put on 25 pounds of muscle,” Eslick said.

Said Gumke: “I could have probably put on more if I could have lifted throughout the school year. Coach Eslick and I talked it over and decided that 200 was the magical number to get to.”

He continues to reap the benefits of his hard work. On Saturday, he captured his first West Region championship, upping his record to 35-4. The win also meant 100 victories in his prep career, a special feat Gumke has been keeping his eye on.

“We have more state champions than we do 100-win wrestlers,” said Gumke, referring to Jamestown’s program. “That was a big goal.”

Another goal was winning the prestigious Bismarck Rotary for the first time. He suffered two losses to Minnesota wrestlers at the Rumble on the Red in Fargo, another strong Midwest tournament. Two of his three losses are to top-seeded, 182-pound Zach Doty of Valley City, with his final setback coming to Nick Becker of Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter at the Storhaug Invite in Lisbon. Becker is seeded No. 1 on the Class B side.

Losses triggered Gumke’s drive even more.

“They’ve made me re-evaluate myself,” he said. “Get my head back on track.”

Gumke squares off against Fargo North sophomore Tin Nguyen (9-5) in the opening round. And while he doesn’t see this weekend as championship or bust, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be shaken by falling short.

“I’d be disappointed,” Gumke said. “A state championship is pretty much the main goal going in.”

Sun sportswriter Chris

Aarhus can be reached

at (701) 952-8462 or