February 21, 2024

Just My Opinion - By Mary Kilen

Nothing Like Tournament Time
I spent last week at the State Wrestling Tournament in Fargo. I have to admit that I love this tournament. There is nothing like walking into the Fargodome and feeling the atmosphere of state wrestling. It is almost electric.
It is also a time for me to get to see some people that I only see that one time per year. This year Beth Wilhelmi was helping me out on the floor just in case. There were a lot of wrestlers qualifying from Stanley and New Town/Parshall. Those first rounds can get really hectic as I try to get pictures of each wrestler. As it turns out, I was able to handle it, but it was fun having her next to me on the mat. I’m pretty sure she had a really good time too.
Anyway, I digress. Beth came down to meet me on Thursday morning before the first rounds started. While making our way across the floor, I stopped and talked to several people. She smiled when she pointed out that she had no idea how many of them I knew. It comes from years on that floor. Wrestling becomes like a big family. I’ve seen coaches come and go. Many of them, once they “retire”, either help out with other teams or work at the tournament. They never really seem to leave. Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of those coaches. I’ve also caught up with some of our former staff and students that now coach on those sidelines.
As you walk onto the ground level of the Fargodome, you are surrounded by all those people and the wrestlers. The side that most people don’t see is the team “camps”.
Behind the bleachers and the floor used for wrestling, is a whole other sight. The teams each set up their “camps” behind those bleachers. There are blankets and pillows everywhere. In each team’s space you might find coolers; supply bags with extra equipment, medical supply needs and more; and just areas that are used to warm up wrestlers or for coaches, wrestlers and stats to take a break. It can sometimes be a long time between matches. Wrestlers are also not allowed on the floor until they are on the boards calling their matches, on deck or in the hole. They are often back there just waiting for their turn on the mats.
It can be a bit overwhelming back there with all those people and stuff around, but it can also be a great thing to see. You have no idea how much of a “family” wrestlers are until you turn around and see wrestlers warming up with someone who will later be an opponent.
In this week’s paper, I also have a picture of Cohen Bell wearing a sweatshirt that has been passed down for generations. I had to ask Keyton Meiers the history behind the shirt. He said it started with Chandler and that both Kaydin and he had worn the shirt. Riley Zachmeier of Rugby had inherited the shirt at one point. This year, Ethan Maier of New Salem-Almont had possession of the shirt. As you look at the back of the shirt, you can see where each wrestler had changed the lettering to reflect their name when the Meiers boys were not wearing it.
As I took pictures of Cohen during introductions, he was wearing his own sweatshirt. When it was finally his turn to head to the mat for finals, I saw him wearing the sweatshirt. Turns out that once Ethan was done with his final he had handed the sweatshirt to Cohen.
If that sweatshirt could talk, oh the stories it would tell. But just the handing down of that sweatshirt tells the story of wrestling families.
I also enjoyed watching our coaches and the Eagles coaches interacting in each other’s corners. For those that are unaware, Stanley will welcome the New Town/Parshall program in a co-op next year. This will be good for everyone, but especially for the wrestlers that will become one team. This year, the Eagles have been coming to Stanley to practice. That has benefitted them with a small program. It gives them more people to wrestle with in practice. For Stanley, it does the same and brings the experience of the Eagles coaches to the table as well.
Now with State Wrestling done, it’s time to turn my focus to basketball tournaments. As I’m writing my column, I’m trying to get done in time with hopes to maybe make it to the girls’ region tournament in Minot tonight for Stanley’s girls’ game. The winner in that tournament is looking to punch their ticket to the state tournament at the end of the month.
That will barely wrap up and it will be boys’ basketball regions, again in Minot. Winners there will be looking to punch their ticket to the state tournament in Fargo mid-March.
It will be a crazy month yet as we go from tournament to tournament. If you see me spinning in place somewhere, please stop me and ask me where I’m supposed to be!