New Salem-Almont wrestling's 'Big Four' is at it again.
The Holsteins' prize quartet of Clay Gerhardt (sophomore), Tayt Wolding (junior), Chauncey Dittus (junior) and Josh Irwin (junior) is having another productive season in 2017-18. Gerhardt, the Class B state champion at 106 pounds last February, has won three individual championships in four tournaments, thus far. Wolding, who placed third at 113 in last year’s state tournament and first at 106 in 2016, has four titles and one second-place finish; Dittus, the 126-pound state champion in 2017, has five individual titles, and Irwin has won two championships and placed second twice. Gerhardt (113) is 29-3 this season, Wolding (120) 26-1, Dittus (132) 28-2, and Irwin (138) 28-5 -- a collective 111-11.
They also combined for 11 victories at the prestigious Rumble on the Red Tournament in Fargo over the Christmas break – Gerhardt (4), Dittus (3), Irwin (3) and Wolding (1). Wolding won his first match, but had to exit early because of an illness.
With the exception of the Rumble on the Red, New Salem-Almont coach Dave Wolding said the four grapplers have been good for 90 to 100 points in each tournament.
“Those kids have been very good and very consistent, so far. They’ve scored a ton of points and that’s what we expected,” he said. “They had a nice year last year and they came back stronger and better because of the work they put in during the offseason. We have about a month to go in the season and we’re excited to see how they finish it off.”
Coach Wolding said all four are ranked at or near the top of their respective weight classes. Each will get a chance to strengthen, or improve, their ranking in the annual East-West Tournament today and Saturday at the New Salem-Almont School gymnasium. The tournament traditionally draws many of the top Class B teams and wrestlers, and this year, 27 teams are expected, including defending state champion Lisbon.
“The East-West is the last big tournament before regionals and state. A lot of teams like to come here to see how they measure up,” coach Wolding said. “We're expecting a good one this year. We're going to have most of the top 10 teams here, and 12 of the 14 top-ranked individuals. We know the team competition is going to be a grind ... there are a lot of good teams out there, and there are very few weight classes in this tournament that don’t have the top five wrestlers in the state. If fans want to see a great tournament before state, New Salem is the place to be.”
Wolding and Dittus are seeded No. 1 in their weight classes, while Gerhardt and Irwin are No. 2 seeds. Wolding’s only loss, thus far, was to three-time state champion Kyle Burwick of Hettinger-Scranton in the 126-pound final at the Linton Holiday Tournament. Burwick (42-0) is seeded No. 1 at 126 in the East-West Tournament.
Dittus is undefeated against North Dakota opponents, and Gerhardt’s only North Dakota loss was to No. 1-seeded Conner Ledoux (36-2) of Minot Ryan at the Linton tournament. Ledoux won the match in the final six seconds.
Irwin, who placed fifth at 132 in last year’s state tournament, is seeded behind South Border’s Darin VanGorkom (24-2).
"Those kids have faced some pretty stiff competition and they've done really well," coach Wolding said. "They know it's going to get tougher from here on out, but they're ready for it."
Coach Wolding said every weight class in the East-West Tournament is loaded, but none more so than the one Dittus resides in. No. 2-seeded Cale Schalesky of Hettinger-Scranton (36-6) captured state championships at 113 in 2015 and 132 in 2017. No. 3 Kersey Harris of Ryan, No. 4 Coy Awender of Oakes and No. 6 Zach Broadwell of Carrington were state runners-up last year at 106, 113 and 138, respectively.
“The one that comes out of that weight class definitely will have earned it,” coach Wolding said.
Other No. 1 seeds are Luke Leshuk of Hillsboro-Central Valley (21-4), 106; Jordan Sours of Lisbon (20-4), 145; Garrett Jangula of Napoleon (28-0), 152; Colton Miller of Des Lacs-Burlington (24-1), 160; Mark Hastings of Hillsboro-CV (35-3), 170; Kaden Wolsky of Carrington (36-4), 182; Connor Dennis of Watford City (38-3), 195; Jordan Urbach of Lisbon (29-0), 220, and Riley Molter of South Border (21-3), 285.
Also seeded No. 2 are Gunner Mogen of Velva (36-6), 106; Matt Anderson of Hillsboro-CV (23-7), 120; Riley Zachmeier of Rugby (34-2), 126; Jacob Bitz of Napoleon (9-3), 145; Mark Jochim of South Border (24-4), 152; Nathan Weigel of Napoleon (28-4), 160; Isaac Anderson of Hettinger-Scranton (35-9), 170; Corbin Okeson of Ryan (31-5), 182; Wyatt Nitschke of Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm (23-2), 195; Bailey Lawson of Harvey-Wells County (19-5), 220, and Jackson Faller of Watford City (27-5), 285.
The tournament’s first round begins at 3 p.m., today. The quarterfinals and the first round of wrestlebacks will follow. Saturday’s action starts at 9 a.m., with the second round of wrestlebacks.