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Tom Mix, Published December 27 2012

Rumble on the Red grows from humble beginnings

FARGO – The genesis of the Rumble on the Red wrestling championships can be credited to an idea followed by phone calls.

A lot of phone calls.

In order to get their idea of hosting a high school wrestling tournament in the Fargo-Moorhead area off the ground, tournament organizers Todd Fuller and Steve Saxlund – both former wrestlers at North Dakota State – took to the phone book.

The pair’s goal was to get 24 schools to commit to the inaugural event in 2006, which was held at Minnesota State Moorhead.

“I can’t tell you how many hours we spent on the phone that first year,” Fuller said. “We worked hard at it.”

The recipients of those initial phone calls were not exactly enthusiastic.

Saxlund said he was often told, “Our schedule is already full,” and other less-than-desired responses.

“We had one chance at this, and if it bombed, no one would have come back,” Fuller said. “The coaches put the trust in us to run a quality event, and we did.”

The 24 teams were secured. The next year, the pool of teams increased to 52, leading to a move to the Fargodome.

The seventh annual Rumble on the Red begins at 10 a.m. today and runs through Saturday. There are 65 teams from five states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and New Mexico. More than 1,400 high school wrestlers will be competing in the event that will feature a total of 19 wrestling mats.

The Rumble on the Red teams up with MSUM, Concordia, West Fargo Wrestling and the Metro Tournament Committee to sanction, promote and host the event.

A new feature this year is the addition of the youth individual tournament held on Sunday.

Saxlund said the youth dual and individual tournaments are just a few features that make the Rumble on the Red a unique regular-season event.

“In essence, a team can bring their whole program to this tournament,” Saxlund said. “A few years ago, a coach told me that he never thought he would be at an event where he could watch his second-grade son wrestle and the same day coach his varsity team. That really hit home.”

Carrington is making its first trip to the Rumble on the Red, and senior Lucas Brown said he’s anticipating tough matches.

“This is something Carrington really hasn’t done before,” said Brown, who won the North Dakota Class B 106-pound state championship last season. “I’m really excited to try my skills against new wrestlers and new teams. It is way bigger than state size wise, so it is a new environment. I’m psyched.”

Carrington assistant coach Josh Kerbaugh is no stranger to the Rumble. Kerbaugh worked the event while he was an assistant coach at MSUM under then-head coach Keenan Spiess, who now coaches at Fargo Davies High school.

“There is excitement and a little of the fear factor for us,” Kerbaugh said of the Cardinals. “The ones that were initially on the fence about wrestling in this tournament won’t be after we leave. How could you not like this?

“I don’t think there is a tournament in the region that compares to this.”

Fuller said the tournament has steadily grown in large part to its commitment to bring in high level competition.

“It started out being a very tough event, but anytime you double and triple the number of teams it is only going to get tougher,” Fuller said. “But I really think this is a tournament for everyone.

“We hope to continue bringing bigger and better teams into this tournament to wrestle against some of our local teams.”


Byron (Minn.), Delano, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Eagan, Frazee, St. Cloud Apollo, Grand Forks Red River, West Fargo and Rapid City Stevens are the nine schools that have participated in all seven Rumble on the Red championships. … There is one state championship team from each of the five states participating in the Rumble on the Red. … The individual winner of each weight class Saturday will receive a Rumble on the Red beach towel. … The Youth Dual Tournament goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. … The youth individual tournament begins 9 a.m. Sunday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562