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Tom Mix, Published February 14 2014

West Fargo outlasts Bismarck for ND Class A dual wrestling title

BISMARCK – When the wrestling season began months ago, many thought West Fargo and Bismarck would be the odds-on favorite to meet in the North Dakota Class A team dual championship match.

The collision course seemed imminent, and as the meeting of the powerhouses neared, many thought it would be close.

It was. In fact, it came down to the final match.

West Fargo defeated Bismarck 31-25 for its third straight state team dual title on Friday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

“It is awesome,” West Fargo senior Kollin Kragnes said of the victory. “Every guy fought to make it happen.”

The Packers (27-3) led 28-25 heading into the final match at 126 pounds between senior Reed Cronin and Bismarck senior Kael Knowlen.

West Fargo owned a tie-breaker if Knowlen would have won by decision, but it ended up not being needed as Cronin posted a 5-0 decision to seal the victory.

“I focused on not giving up anything big, not trying anything stupid and stuck to the basics,” Cronin said. “It was exactly what you want. That’s what you look forward to. A big match to win the dual. It was awesome.”

“Every match was important,” Packers coach Kayle Dangerud added. “I could not be more proud of Reed Cronin, and that also goes for the rest of the team. Whether it was in a win or a loss, every guy worked hard and that was satisfying. Some of our losses were almost as important as some of our wins.”

Bismarck (14-2) led 16-9 after Ryan Blees scored a pin at 160 pounds, but Kragnes started a string of five straight wins for the Packers by earning a 9-3 decision over Jake Sanders.

The Packers also lead in the team individual points competition with 218 points. Bismarck is second with 206.

West Fargo’s Jared Franek (106), Jordan Shearer (132), Jesse Shearer (152), Weston Dobler (160), Kragnes (170), Kyle Kragnes (182), Tanner Kuznia (195) and Brandon Metz (285) all advance to today’s individual finals.

Davies duo headed to the finals

Fargo Davies seniors Cole Alexander (170 pounds) and Hunter Swensen (285) each scored pins in the semifinals to book trips to the championship round.

Swensen, the runner-up at 285 pounds last season, pinned Jackson Grad of Bismarck St. Mary’s in 1:03.

“I’m really excited to be back in the finals, and it is exhilarating to make it all the way back my senior year,” said Swensen, who meets Metz in the finals today. “I couldn’t have planned this tournament to go any better than it has. A lot has gone my way, and now I have to get it done.”

Alexander has recorded pins in all three of his individual bouts. He fell behind 3-0 in the second period against Bismarck Century’s Hunter Babeck, but later got the fall following a key takedown.

“I felt him get tired, and that’s when I knew I had to make my move,” Alexander said. “I went for the opportunity, and I really don’t know how the match would have turned out if I didn’t go for it there.”

Alexander meets West Fargo’s Kollin Kragnes in the finals, marking the third time they’ll meet this season. The series is tied 1-1.

Three other area grapplers advance

Valley City senior Zach Doty and Fargo North senior Olaf Hanson each earned return trips to the finals Friday.

Doty collected an 8-3 decision over Turtle Mountain-Belcourt’s Brandon Rodriguez and will meet West Fargo’s Kyle Kragnes in the 182-pound title match.

“I am happy I made it back to the finals,” said Doty, who finished second at 170 pounds last season. “Hopefully I get the job done and come out on top my senior year.”

Hanson, the defending state champion at 220-pounds, pinned Jamestown’s Kyle Anderson in 45 seconds to set up a finals showdown with TM-B’s Waylon DeCoteau.

Jamestown senior Eathan Gumke pinned Fargo Davies’ Nick Kjera in 5:50 to earn his first trip to the finals.

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