By Scott Schlaufman
BISMARCK — Brandon Larson’s 16-0 tech fall win over West
Fargo’s Drew Johnston wasn’t the quickest match he’s had all year.
Heck, a week earlier the senior finished Johnson off in the first
But the final time the two squared off this season was for
the 195-pound state championship, so it wasn’t about how fast
the win was, it was simply that it got done.
After the referee gave Larson his final three points to clinch
the tech fall in the third round at the Bismarck Civic Center, he
ran over to his father and coach, Aaron Larson, for a hug, then celebrated with those around him in a moment of pure bliss as he captured
a state title that eluded him the last two years
“It’s been my dream for a longtime,” Larson said. “I fell short the last two years but I finally got it.
“It’s all worth it.”
Larson was the only champion and one of six wrestlers that
placed for the Hi-Liners, who finished seventh as a team with 99.5 points.
In addition to Larson, Valley City also had three fourth place finishers — Mark Miller at 126 pounds, Shane Undem at 138, and
Reed Beckman at 145 — a fifth place finish from heavyweight
Steven Horner, and a seventh place finish from senior Brady
Beckman at 220.
It was a showing that left Valley City coach Aaron Larson plenty
“I thought we wrestled great,” he said. “Every kid wrestled to or above their seed, so anytime you can do that it’s a great tournament.”
Horner was among those who wrestled above his seed. In fact, he entered the tournament unseeded, meaning he wasn’t among the top
That didn’t bug him or Aaron Larson.
“Every big tournament this year, he’s placed in,” Aaron Larson said. “Coming into the state tournament I knew he had a shot at
placing. He didn’t get seeded, he kind of got hosed a little bit on
the seeding, but it didn’t matter to him.”
Instead, he let his wrestling speak for itself. He started the
tournament by holding his own with the state’s second seed and
second-place finisher, Minot’s Nick Nesdahl. The two were tied
in the third period until Horner lost by pin.
In the consolation round, he picked up wins over the tournament’s
fifth and seventh seeds and secured his place with a forfeit win
over Bryan Bjerk of Red River.
“Making it this far into placing, I was happy,” Horner said.
At 126 pounds, Miller entered the tournament seeded fourth and
made it to the state semifinals before he was beat by Keenan
Ternes, the eventual state champion from Mandan.
“He beat me pretty bad, but I came back and got fourth,” Miller said.
In the consolation round, Miller got a pin, but then lost to Tanner
Crissler in the third place match.
“He wrestled great,” Aaron Larson said. “He basically came out of nowhere to get fourth.”
Shortly after Miller’s loss, Undem took fourth place with a
loss to Fargo South’s Myron Bell.
Bell was the only thorn in an otherwise successful tournament
for Undem, who won his first round match, lost 6-4 in overtime
to Bell in the quarterfinals, then won three consolation matches to
get into the third place match with Bell, which he lost 5-3.
“That’s the third time we’ve wrestled,” Undem said. “They’ve
all been really close matches.”
Though he was somewhat happy, Undem went in expecting
to do better.
“I was the fifth seed coming into the tournament,” he said. “I
was hoping I could make a run to the finals.”
Reed Beckman was the third Hi-Liner to take fourth place. He
had two pins leading into the state semifinal match, which he lost in
a 9-8 decision to the second place finisher, Paul Michaelson of Williston.
He wrestled back to the third place match but was somewhat
disappointed when he lost in a 10-3 decision to Red River’s
Billy Rerick. It was the fourth time Beckman lost to Rerick this season.
Brady Beckman was the final placer for the Hi-Liners at 220. He
entered the tournament seeded eighth but lost in the opening
round to Fargo North’s Olaf Hanson.
“That’s doomsday,” Aaron Larson said. “If you’re seeded and
you lose, a lot of times it’s tough to come back and place but he didn’t
Instead, he won three of his next four matches, including a pin
over Hanson in the seventh place match.
It was his senior season and though he was hoping to place
better, Brady Beckman said he was happy to be there.
“I just wanted to place this year," he said. “It was the last chance I’ll
ever get and I didn’t want to finish the year on a loss, so I tried to win my last one.”