This week the wrestling world turns their eyes to North Dakota for the biggest tournament of the year. And there’s quite a few local wrestlers that could be well on their way to being crowned a national champion.
35 athletes are stepping on the wrestling mat this weekend with North Dakota across their chest.
“I mean for me this is like a way of giving back to the state and like everything wrestling has been doing for me, and what wrestling has gotten me to, the places I’ve been,” former Bismarck High wrestler Wilfried Tanefeu said. “For me being a part of this team is a way of giving back, and I definitely love the spirit of this team.”
Team North Dakota features 14 state title winners. Now those wrestlers hope to add national champion to their resume at the junior and 16U national tournament in Fargo.
“You want to do the best for the state, want to make the state look good, and maybe it’s not all for yourself, but yeah,” former St. Mary’s wrestler Reece Barnhardt explained. “Going out there and giving your all trying (to be) an All-American.”
Representing the state is just part of Team North Dakota. It’s also about competing with the guys that these wrestlers have spent their entire career trying to beat.
“That’s what we train for pretty much after the whole season,” former Bismarck standout Christian Tanefeu said. “This is the one goal, try to go to nationals, win an All-American, so it feels honestly amazing. It’s one of the best feelings.”
For seniors like Reece Barnhardt and the Tanefeu brothers there’s just one last shot, and a national title would cement their high school legacies.
“It would mean the world to me,” Christian Tanefeu said of winning a second national title. “It would help solidify that everything I have done in the past was just the right way, and I did it at the right times.”
“That would be amazing,” Barnhardt said of winning his first national title. “Yeah that would be awesome. I mean right now I guess I’m already committed places, so it really wouldn’t do much for me, but personally that would be a huge achievement.”
Wilfried Tanefeu also owns a national title from 2019, but he says a second one would be the perfect ending to his high school career.
“It would be a great feeling, because I know I’ve had a pretty good career at Bismarck High, but just finishing this, doing this for team North Dakota and team Bismarck High it’d mean the world to me,” Wilfried Tanefeu said.
The national wrestling tournament begins tomorrow and runs through Friday.