The Hi-Liners were making their first-ever appearance in the Class A team dual state championship, opposite a team that has reached the dual title match every year since the tournament’s inception in 2000.
In a pandemic season where nothing is guaranteed, one thing seemed certain — championship success for the Demons. Anchored by seven individual state champions, the Demons had already added to the storied program’s legacy with what may have been the team’s most dominant state tournament run in school history.
Bismarck broke a state tournament scoring record Friday — amassing 313.5 points — en route to its fourth-straight individual team title, and went seven-for-seven in championship matches to tie a school record. For the first time in program history, two Demons faced off in the title bout.
Bismarck's Ben Nagel, right, competes with Bismarck's Brock Fettig in the North Dakota Class A State Wresting championships on Friday, Feb. 19, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
What seemed inevitable Saturday became inevitable. The Demons put a stamp on the season with a record-breaking 70-6 win over Valley City at the Fargodome. It was Bismarck’s 17th team dual title since 2000 and second in a row.
“Groundbreaking year. We achieved new heights,” said three-time state champion and Bismarck senior Wilfried Tanefeu.
The Demons had nine pins in the lopsided dual, which featured the largest margin of victory (64) in tournament history and the most points scored. The Demons are no strangers to success, but this year’s team pushed the fold.
“Obviously this year was really strange with COVID, but we have an extremely cohesive group that just wants to learn and wants to get better at wrestling,” said Bismarck co-head coach Mark Lardy. “When you have 22 kids in for optional practice in the morning, it speaks volumes to what type of kids you’re working with.”
Bismarck's Benjamin DeForest, top, competes with Valley City's Koltyn Grebel in the North Dakota State Wresting championship dual on Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Bismarck seniors Christian and Wilfried Tanefeu are two of the most unbeatable wrestlers in the state, but that doesn't mean their chase to the top has dulled. The twin brothers, originally from Cameroon, haven’t lost to a North Dakota opponent in now two seasons, and won their third consecutive state titles Friday — Christian at 113 and Wilfried at 120.
Bismarck's Wilfried Tanefeu, left, competes with Valley City's Logan Novara in the North Dakota State Wresting championship dual on Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Christian and Wilfried, who will wrestle at the University of Michigan next fall, had a little downtime before the championship while Valley City was wrapping its semifinal against Bismarck Century. The Demons downed West Fargo Sheyenne 62-7 in the quarterfinals and topped Jamestown 54-15 to reach the championship.
Some of their teammates watched the match, while others took advantage of the short resting period.
Not the Tanefeus, who immediately hit the mat. They used the break between duals to sharpen their top games. Christian and Wilfried chase perfection and push each other. They know what they're capable of, but also know “nothing is guaranteed.”
“We knew they were tough kids and we hadn’t wrestled some of them,” Christian said of Valley City. “So we just wanted to brush over some of the technique and go over some other stuff before we started the match to make sure we were focused and ready to go.”
Bismarck's Isaiah Huus, top, competes with Valley City's Jaytan McConnaughey in the North Dakota State Wresting championship dual on Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Christian and Wilfried are latecomers to wrestling, a sport they didn’t even know existed six years ago, but didn’t need years to leave a legacy in the Demons program. The Tanefeus have left their mark on the program, but to be sure, chipped in a combined 10 points in the dual championship to cap off their Bismarck careers.
Wilfried had a six-point pin over Valley City’s Logan Novara at 120 pounds. Christian won a 12-4 major decision over Koye Grebel, the reigning 106-pound state champ, in a state-champion showdown.
“Very great weekend,” Wilfried said. “A great way to go out. I definitely feel thankful, and awesome.”
Christian wanted to get the pin over Novara, but more than that, wanted to get the win for his team.
“I had to focus on trying to score as many points as I could and focus on getting the win for the team,” Christian said. “Instead of forcing the pin, trying to get that dominant win.”
Hi-Liners sophomore Grebel moved up a class to wrestle Christian at 113, a move Bismarck co-head coach Jeff Schumacher admired.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Schumacher said on Grebel. “Huge kudos to him for looking for competition. I have huge respect for him for doing that.”
Valley City's Carson McGough, top, competes with Bismarck's Ethan Stewart in the North Dakota State Wresting championship dual on Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Bismarck had a 26-0 lead thanks to a pair of pins and major decisions before Valley City registered its first and only victory at heavyweight. Valley City’s Carson McGough pinned Ethan Stewart in 3 minutes, 2 seconds. The Demons responded with a pair of major decisions, followed by six falls that closed out the championship.
Bismarck’s Isaac Peterson (152) finished the day with redemption. He pinned Valley City’s Ezra Hanse in 5:10, whom Peterson lost by fall to in the second round of the individual tournament
“When it’s a team championship, it’s huge,” Schumacher said. “You always go back. Ten years from now, these kids are gonna come back into the wrestling room and they're gonna want to see this.”
Jamestown edged Bismarck Century 39-36 for a third-place dual finish. Bismarck St. Mary’s placed fifth with a 55-20 win over Devils Lake.