Seeds planted by pair
BISMARCK – A day of marquee wrestling matches found Rayse Clendenen and Jamie Ping as the headliners.
Clendenen, a junior at Oakwood, and Ping, a senior at Unity, were the only athletes at Bismarck-Henning's Class A regional to upend No. 1-seeded opponents in the finals.
The 135-pound Clendenen avenged a previous loss to St. Joseph-Ogden's Micki Speckman with a 9-6 decision. The 215-pound Ping dominated his weight class, winning by technical fall (20-4) in the finals.
Ping has grown accustomed to a lack of respect at tournaments.
"This is the third tournament I've won and I haven't been seeded first at any of them," Ping said.
He understands why he's underrated. Opposing coaches look at his overall record (now 25-9) without considering that six of his losses were administered by Class AA foes.
"People with the better records get the higher seeds," Ping said.
Clendenen had to recover from a 4-1 first-period deficit against Speckman.
"I try to keep thinking positive," Clendenen said.
He acknowledged that was difficult against a person who had pinned him at midseason.
"I was really thinking he would turn me," Clendenen said.
The Oakwood grappler scored all three of the third-period points, including a clinching takedown with 52 seconds remaining. He cited one factor as the key.
"I'm in better shape," he said.
Thanks to a tournament-high five individual champions, SJ-O overcame a 13 1/2-point deficit following the semifinals to edge Oakwood for team supremacy, 190 1/2-186 1/2. Last year, the Spartans captured their regional crown by 3 1/2 points.
SJ-O, which will send nine athletes to sectionals, prevailed due to the bonus points earned in the finals. Lucas Gones (145) picked up additional points with a pin. Mike Nix (130) had a technical fall while Brytt Hallowell (112) and Lukas Graves (140) each added major decisions. The Spartans' other individual champion was Lukas Allison (152).
"After the semis I told them to wake up, and sure enough they did," first-year coach Craig Acree said. "They wrestled awesome in the finals."
Gones, Unity freshman Buddy Daly (125) and Oakwood's J Sutton (189) were the regional titlists who pinned their way through their weight classes.
"I thought it would be a lot harder," said Daly, a freshman.
Sutton is one of the Comets' biggest success stories. He took up wrestling as a freshman and, for all matches, had a 2-32 record.
"I'm on the football team and guys on the team pushed me to stay with it," said Sutton, a junior who is 27-7 this season.
Unity's Dustinn Brown (119) became a four-time regional champ, following a semifinal pin with a title-match technical fall.
"I was trying to get off the mat as quick as I could to not take a chance on hurting my hand worse," said Brown, who has battled a hand injury the past month.
B-H, which had the most sectional qualifiers (11), had individual winners at the top and bottom of its lineup. Myles Mitchell (103) didn't allow a point in the finals and heavyweight Joe Aquino avenged a loss to Oakwood's Blake Warren one week earlier.
Other regional champs were Oakwood's Evan Davis (160) and Westville's Dustin Zaayer (171), who outscored his two opponents 33-10.