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Hungry for perfection: Berger sets sights on closing out career with a state championship

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Dickinson High senior Devin Berger remembers the 2013 Class A state wrestling tournament well.

He uses the memories as motivation every day.

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As the final seconds ran off the clock during the last year’s state quarterfinals match against Bismarck High’s Logan Boese, Berger found himself on the losing end of a 5-4 decision.

“That was definitely one of the most disappointing losses of my career,” Berger said. “You have to work harder. I had to work harder this year, because you want to get back. It wasn’t easy, but you never know how that match would have went if he would have done something else.

“Losing in the quarterfinals gives you motivation to do better at state and go the full distance.”

Berger fought back to take third place at 126 pounds.

Dickinson co-head coach Adam Orton said the wrestler who gets close and doesn’t win a state title usually the hungriest going into next season.

“A lot of times the kids that take third place in the state tournament is tougher than the champion in a lot of aspects because they are still hungry and they want that state championship, and they didn’t get it,” he said. “It’s great that he gets to come back and has another chance.”

Berger feels he has achieved nearly everything since he started wrestling at the varsity level as a seventh-grade.

Everything except a state championship.

He hopes to fulfill his final goal when he hits the mat at the 2014 Class A state tournament today at the Bismarck Civic Center. Berger is the No. 4 seed at 126 pounds and will wrestle Valley City’s Jonathon Langer in the first round.

“You just have to take it one match at a time,” Berger said. “Whoever the guy is front of you, you have wrestle. I feel like what I accomplished here is what I wanted to accomplish, minus a state championship. That’s all I want this tournament is to win a state championship. That’s what I’ve been working for all year.”

Team goals

Dickinson has 15 individuals qualified for the state tournament — 13 of whom can score team points.

Along with the individuals, the Midgets have qualified as a team for the state dual tournament. Dickinson is the No. 4 seed from the West Region and faces West Fargo, the No. 1 seed from the East and the two-time defending Class A champions, in the first round of team duals.

“(Fifteen) guys is pretty crazy,” Berger said. “We had seven placers last year and if we could do that again, that would be fantastic. Being in that cluster of dual teams is a pretty sweet feeling. We have a tough match against West Fargo, but you have go out there like it’s any other match.”

‘Devin is going to push me’

Though Berger has his sights set on winning a state championship, the senior wouldn’t be the No. 4 seed at 126 pounds without the help of teammates in the wrestling room.

Berger’s main wrestling partner during practice is Austin Hutzenbiler, who finished runner-up in the West Region Tournament and is the No. 2-seeded wrestler at 120 pounds.

“You are only as good as your practice partner,” Hutzenbiler said. “If I come into the room and slack off, Devin is going to push me. If Devin is coming in and he’s slacking off, I’m going to get on him. We both just want to end up at the top at state.”

After three full days of grinding through physical and emotional pains at the state wrestling tournament, Berger said the understanding that this is his final weekend of high school wrestling won’t fully hit him until after the final match.

“It’s definitely kind of bitter because I’ve been doing this for six years and I’ve been to state for six years,” he said. “It’s definitely a weird feeling knowing this is going to be my last tournament.

“After I wrestle, I’m sure it’s going to hit me hard. But I’m just trying to out there and give it my all in my last tournament.”

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