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Cards amped up

The practices are done and the bar has been set. The only thing left to determine is just how far they’ll fly.

The Carrington Cardinals are amped up to get this year’s Class B state wrestling tournament underway, and their pre-tournament mantra has been pretty simple and straightforward.

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The state individual Class B wrestling tournament, along with the state Class B dual tournament, fires up on Thursday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

“Calm, cool and collected,” first-year Carrington coach Josh Kerbaugh explained. “Get loose, get your mind ready, and then it’s on.”

That’s the motto the team has been using over the past two weeks, en route to capturing the Region 2 dual championship in Harvey on Feb. 1, along with the Region 2 individual championship in Hillsboro last Saturday.

The Cards have been flying high all season, performing at an elite level on the mat as one of the state’s top Class B teams. Carrington has a dual record of 13-1, impressively outscoring its opponents 766 to 229.

It all started with a 40-30 victory over Oakes way back on Nov. 19, and wins over the likes of Class A’s Valley City (56-21) and Jamestown (48-27) eventually followed. The only dual loss the Cardinals were handed all season was to Class A’s No. 1 team, the West Fargo Packers, by the final of 39-27 on Jan. 23 in Devils Lake.

Carrington finished third at both the state dual and state individual tournaments last year, but with six returning state place-getters and a host of young talent returning, expectations were understandably quite high.

“I think it started out at the parent meeting before the season even got started, what our expectations were,” Kerbaugh said. “We were going to train to be state champions.”

The Cardinals start the state dual tournament at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday against Watford City. But according to Kerbaugh, the Wolves have recently hit a rough patch.

“The thing about Watford City — in their region (Region 4) they qualify by their dual record, and their team is not the same as it was,” Kerbaugh said. “They’ve got a few guys that are hurt … and they’ll probably have five or six open spots.”

The other two teams in Carrington’s half of the bracket are Region 3 champs Minot Bishop Ryan and Region 1 runner-up Lisbon.

On the individual side of things, the Cardinals are also looking pretty healthy after qualifying 13 out of a possible 14 wrestlers during last weekend’s Region 2 tourney. Leading the charge will be seniors Joe Bakke (Region 2 Senior Athlete of the Year) and Patrick Freeman, along with sophomore Walker Carr, who was last year’s state champion at 132 pounds.

One could say all three wrestlers will have a chip on their shoulder this weekend. Bakke was out due to an injury one year ago, while Freeman was upset as a No. 5 seed and didn’t make the podium, and Carr just lost the Region 2 title at 145 to Grafton’s Jaron Lunday by a 7-2 decision.

Freeman (38-6) is seeded No. 1 at 138, while Bakke (35-4) and Carr (37-5) have earned No. 2 seeds at 126 and 145, respectively. The trio will be joined at state by five other Carrington wrestlers who have 30 or more wins on the season.

Bakke and Freeman both won individual titles at the Region 2 tournament.

“They’re expectations are going to be high, and my goal for them is to be state champions,” Kerbaugh said. “Joe was the No. 1 seed all year, and the reason he’s No. 2 is because South Border’s Andy Nolz (32-8) came down to 126 from 132. Nolz has beaten a couple guys that were ranked.”

Nolz captured second at state last season at 120.

“Walker Carr, he’s probably the best wrestler in (our) room,” Kerbaugh continued, “and I think sometimes a loss will help you. He lost in the region finals and I think that’ll make him focus a little bit more.”

Carrington sophomore Riley Lura (31-9) is seeded No. 2 at 182, as is junior Mathew Neumiller (29-10) at 113. Lura placed seventh at 152 a year ago, while Neumiller brought home fifth at 106.

“Riley Lura is looking really good right now at 182. He’s been fairly dominant and he’s starting to come together on finishing his shots,” Kerbaugh said. “Neumiller is also starting to wrestle really well.”

Also hitting the mat for Carrington will be juniors Chaz Bauer (132 pounds) and Seth Zink (220), sophomores Bryce Carr (120), Billy Holtan (152) and Brett Lyman (160), and freshmen Bridger Anderson (170), Bradee Schroeder (285) and Tyler Hoggarth (106).

Holtan placed third at 145 last year, while Bryce Carr and Lyman are coming off a seventh- and eighth-place finish at 113 and 160, respectively.

“It’s a pretty tight family,” Kerbaugh said. “They’re all brothers, and everyone is looking out for each other. That’s the beauty of it.”

Carrington, and its first-year coach, will be looking for its first state championship team since 1995 this weekend.

“It took a little bit of time for everyone to buy in, but once everyone buys in it just roller coasters into positives,” Kerbaugh said. “It’s just the fact that they know they’ve put in the time, they know that they are good enough, and now they just have to execute.

“I think we’re ready to go, and we’re feeling good about it. When you’ve got a good team unit, it’s hard to fail.”

Class B state individual tournament

Carrington’s first-round matches

At Bismarck Civic Center, Thursday

(Grade and record in parenthesis)

106: Tyler Hoggarth (freshman, 18-16) vs. Beulah-Hazen’s Jeremy Leintz (freshman, 33-8).

113: Mathew Neumiller (junior, 29-10) vs. New Salem-Almont’s Seth Johnson (eighth grade, 6-14).

120: Bryce Carr (sophomore, 30-7) vs. Lisbon’s Jordan Urbach (eighth grade, 20-18).

126: Joe Bakke (senior, 35-4) vs. Beulah-Hazen’s Tyrel Mellmer (freshman, 18-22).

132: Chaz Bauer (junior, 30-15) vs. Kenmare-Bowbells’ Tanner Egeberg (junior, 16-10).

138: Patrick Freeman (senior, 38-6) vs. Kenmare-Bowbells’ Xavier Maureaux (junior, 7-6).

145: Walker Carr (sophomore, 37-5) vs. Stanley-Powers Lake-Tioga’s Justin Smith (freshman, 7-20).

152: Billy Holtan (sophomore, 33-10) vs. Rugby’s Bennie Mygland (junior, 13-10).

160: Brett Lyman (sophomore, 26-20) vs. Napoleon’s Austin Becker (junior, 24-11)

170: Bridger Anderson (freshman, 27-12) vs. Northern Lights’ Tanner Langan (senior, 17-18).

182: Riley Lura (sophomore, 31-9) vs. New Town’s David Johnson (seventh grade, 8-5).

220: Seth Zink (junior, 24-19) vs. Oakes’ Cole Kelly (junior, 23-12).

285: Bradee Schroeder (freshman, 31-12) vs. Lisbon’s Dylan Claus (senior, 24-16).

Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at