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Published February 11 2012

Totay a quick study on mat for Squirrels

CASSELTON, N.D. – Central Cass junior Mathew Totay lived in Africa until 2006 and he had never seen a high school wrestling match until last year.

However, Totay was smiling atop the awards stand Saturday at the North Dakota Class B, Region 2 wrestling tournament.

Talk about perseverance and dedication.

“It was hard at first,” said Totay, who defeated top-ranked Dylan Bowen of Hillsboro 8-3 in the

170-pound champion match. “But this year I started working hard with the coaches, and they have been telling me what is bad and what is good. It helped me a lot.”

Totay, who moved with his family from Liberia to West Fargo six years ago, initially wanted to play soccer and basketball in high school.

After a few years of soccer in West Fargo, and an attempt at basketball after the family moved to Mapleton, Central Cass wrestling coach Travis Lemar pleaded with Totay to give wrestling a try.

Totay wasn’t having it.

He dismissed the idea at first, but eventually gave in when it became clear that he wasn’t going to get much playing time with the talented Squirrels’ basketball team.

“He had never set foot on the mat, didn’t know anything about it,” Lemar said. “As a matter of fact, he asked me if he needed to learn any plays for wrestling. He came in and worked hard.”

Totay was raw last year in his first season. He was unsure of himself and unsure of the sport.

But it was clear he had talent. A good blend of strength and speed, Totay had to learn wrestling technique rather than rely on instinct.

Totay won only a handful of matches as a sophomore.

He had a slow start to the season before going on a tear. He was ranked No. 6 in the state heading into the region tournament with a record of 31-12.

Now he’s a region champion.

“I felt like it was something I could be good at,” Totay said. “All the kids have fun doing it. I came back for a second year and it started to work out good.”

Totay’s finish helped Central Cass finish a close third behind region champion North Border-Cavalier and second-place Carrington.

North Border-Cavalier won the event with a total of 212.5. Carrington had 212 and the Squirrels 203.5.

The tight finish was a surprise to Lemar, who watched his team get trounced by North Border and Carrington in individual tournaments earlier this season.

“We wrestled great all the way up through placing matches. We just ran out of steam,” Lemar said. “To be that close with Carrington and North Border and have a shot at the end was great. We did everything possible to bring home a region championship. We were just nine points short.”

Team totals: North Border-Cavalier 212½, Carrington 212, Central Cass 203½, Hillsboro 136½, Larimore 122, Grafton 113½, Harvey-Wells County 66, May-Port-CG 60

Individual championships

106: Blumhardt, CC, maj. dec. Horgan, NB-C, 10-2

113: Schmiess, H-WC, dec. Volk, CC, 10-7

120: Bakke, CAR, tech fall Hastings, HIL, 16-0

126: Carr, CAR, dec. Lunday, GRA, 10-5

132: Morten, LAR, dec. Koenig, CC, 3-0

138: Dullea, CC, dec. Koble, H-WC, 4-2

145: Schultz, CC, pinned Keller, H-WC, 0:54

152: Bolstad, HIL, pinned Schurman, NB-C, 2:36

160: Finn, LAR, pinned Lura, CAR, 1:20

170: Totay, CC, dec. Bowen, HIL, 8-3

182: Montgomery, LAR, dec. Stith, NB-C, 6-4 (ot)

195: Schuldheisz, CAR, pinned Cote, HIL, 3:00

220: Schroeder, CAR, pinned Willison, HIL, 1:24

285: Doeden, HIL, pinned Talamantes, GRA, 3:17

Third place

106: Brown, CAR, pinned Gregoire, LAR, 1:41

113: Ulvog, NB-C, pinned Freeman, 1:39

120: Feldmann, LAR, dec. Berg, CC, 8-1

126: Schurman, NB-C, pinned Flick, CC, 2:11

132: Flores, GRA, dec. Miller, NB-C, 10-7

138: Schafer, CAR, maj. dec. Schill, NB-C, 10-0

145: Lura, CAR, pinned Elliott, MPCG, 4:03

152: Anderson, CAR, pinned Sinner, CC, 2:06

160: Lafferty, NB-C, pinned Dolan, GRA, 2:31

170: Carrier, NB-C, pinned Kringstad, GRA, 0:55

182: Nelson, CAR, pinned Kollman, CC, 1:51

195: Gibson, NB-C, pinned Radcliffe, CC, 1:00

220: Soli, NB-C, pinned Gapp, MPCG, 3:29

285: Lafferty, NB-C, pinned Soma, MPCG, 3:09

Senior athletes of the year

Preston Koenig, CC; Brett Schurman, NB-C

Coach of the year

Travis Lemar, CC

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com