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Kevin Schnepf, Published March 02 2014

Basketball, track and wrestling all supplied memorable moments at BSA

Fargo - Bart Manson will be part of Bison Sports Arena history for a second time this weekend.

He will coach the Fargo Davies High School boys basketball team in Friday and Saturday’s East Region tournament – the last scheduled event to be held in the BSA before it undergoes major renovations.

It was back in 1990 when Manson played for Minot in the North Dakota Class A state tournament – the last time that event was held in the BSA. His team, that included actor Josh Duhamel, won that state championship with a 75-61 win over Jamestown.

“Like anything that comes to an end, it will be sad,” said Manson, who scored 18 points in the title game. “But I know a lot of us coaches are super excited about what the new BSA will be like.”

Coaches will not miss the tartan floor that teams played on during nine Class A state tournaments. The 1990 tournament Manson played in was the only state tourney that had a wood floor.

It was prior to that 1990 tournament when coaches voted to use fan-shaped backboards instead of the square backboards already hanging in the BSA.

“Half of the teams used fan-shaped backboards and half of us used square backboards during the season,” Manson recalled. “So I remember NDSU had to bring in the fan backboards for the tournament.”

Five years earlier in the BSA, Fargo North claimed a state championship in one of the most exciting finishes in Class A state tournament history. That’s when Steve Krueger hit a 5-foot shot with 51 seconds remaining to give North a 52-51 win over Jamestown.

The night before, North’s Jason Lamp drained a 3-point shot to send the game into overtime in a semifinal win over Williston.

“It was the nicest place around back then,” former North head coach Ray Callaghan said of the BSA. “It was like big time for the kids. And the place was packed.”

That was the norm back in those days, with the state tournament championship games at the BSA routinely drawing 7,000 fans. It was the same kind of following when North, Fargo South, West Fargo and Moorhead would hold regular-season doubleheaders at the BSA.

“We did that for four or five years and usually filled the place up,” Callaghan said.

There were 7,700 fans who packed the BSA for the 1979 Class A state tournament – the year Wahpeton claimed its first championship in 25 years with a 47-43 win over Jamestown.

“We played the best we did all year at that state tournament,” said former Wahpeton head coach Lance Wolf, who now works with Gate City Bank in Fargo. “It was a pretty nice venue compared to what it is now.”

Class B hysteria

Doug Jacobson was a graduate assistant coach for the 1970-71 NDSU men’s basketball team that christened the BSA. He remembers painting the numbers on the cement steps of the permanent seats on the west side of the BSA.

He also remembers the night the Bison hosted Villanova – a team led by All-American Howard Porter that would later play UCLA in the national championship game.

“I remember (NDSU’s) Mike Kuppich going up for a baseline jumper,” Jacobson said. “All of a sudden, Howard Porter comes flying out of the lane and swatted his shot into the darkness of the east bleachers.”

Ironically 17 years later, Jacobson was sitting in those east bleachers watching his son, Ben, and the No. 2-ranked Mayville-Portland boys basketball team in a Class B state championship.

Ben, now the head coach at the University of Northern Iowa, was a sophomore guard who banked in the game-winning shot in a 54-52 opening-round win over No. 1-ranked Glen Ullin.

“I remember after the game Ben told the reporters that he didn’t mean to bank the shot in,” recalled Doug, who kidded his son that he should’ve said he intended to bank it. “I had to tell him next time just go with it kid.”

Jacobson and Mayville-Portland did go with it. Before 8,350 fans, they beat No. 3-ranked Page 77-73 in the semifinals. In the championship game, Ben scored 23 points in a 72-61 win over Linton.

It would be Mayville-Portland’s first state championship.

“It was a fun place to be,” Doug said. “That was truly exciting.”

Big names in wrestling

The sport of wrestling had its share of headline performances at the BSA.

In 1988, the North Dakota Class A state wrestling tournament was held for the first and only time at the BSA. West Fargo’s Jeff Welder won a 135-pound championship – becoming the winningest wrestler in North Dakota history at the time with 142 wins.

“I edged out one of the Steiner boys by one win for that honor,” said Welder, who now lives in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Troy and Terry Steiner helped Bismarck Century win the team title at that tournament. They went on to become national champions for the University of Iowa’s powerhouse wrestling program.

It was partly because of the Steiners that Iowa came to wrestle NDSU at the BSA 1992. That’s when 6,307 fans filled the placed to watch Iowa hand NDSU a 33-7 loss.

“I had a pretty good relationship with Dan Gable,” longtime Bison wrestling head coach Bucky Maughan said of Iowa’s legendary coach.

Maughan had enough ties nationwide to bring the Division II national tournament to the BSA when it was only five months old in 1971. That’s when NDSU’s Bill Demaray and Bob Backlund each won national titles.

The BSA would be home to four more national wrestling tournaments. Maughan’s Bison placed fifth in 1976, second in 1983 when Steve Carr won a 134-pound title; fourth in 1991 when Maughan’s son Bret placed second; and seventh in 1997 when George Thompson won a 134-pound title.

“The BSA is like home to me,” said Maughan, who coached at NDSU from 1964 to 2011. “It’s been a great facility … but it’s outlived its usefulness.”

Indoor track memories

The 36 rows of wooden bleachers that seat 3,500 fans on the east side of the BSA are beginning to warp. They were purchased used before they were installed in the new facility in 1970.

“It’s gotten to the point where we have to limit the number of times we pull them in and out for fear of them getting stuck,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor.

Before the new indoor track facility opened last year just west of the BSA, the bleachers never stuck to prevent indoor track meets being held. And there have been plenty in the last 44 years.

The North Dakota Class A and B state indoor meets have been held there since the mid-1970s. Olympian Jesse Owens, in town for a mid-1980s speaking engagement, visited one of those meets.

The BSA also hosted three Division II national indoor meets. In 1985 when the Bison women finished fifth and the men seventh, NDSU’s Nancy Dietman won the 3,000 meters while teammate Lora Schloss finished second in the high jump and John Bodine finished second in the long jump.

In 1987, NDSU’s Pete Woodrich placed third in the triple jump while Schloss finished second in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.

And in 1994 when both the men and women placed fifth in the team standings, Penny Ensrud placed second in the high jump, Charles Pokladnik third in the high jump and Brent Parmer third in the long jump.

“We won the first North Central Conference indoor meet held in the BSA and the first Summit Indoor held there … that’s what I remember the most,” said NDSU track coach Don Larson, who as a trackster at South Dakota State ran in the BSA. “There really wasn’t much for indoor facilities back then. There was a dirt track at the University of Minnesota and the board tracks in Canada.”

Among the records that will stand forever at the BSA’s track is the 60 meters time of 6.45 seconds. That was set in 1983 by the late Stacy Robinson, an NDSU football standout who played in the NFL.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549