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Night Hawks fly high: Hettinger-Scranton reaps benefits of hard work, time with productive season

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Photo top, Hettinger-Scranton senior Christian Hughes, right tries for a takedown against Velva’s Adam Dean during the 2013 North Dakota Class B state wrestling tournament on Feb. 16 at the Fargodome. 1 / 2
Photo by Royal McGregor Hettinger-Scranton sophomore Colbey Steeke, right, holds back Garret Roemmich of Linton-HMB getting an escape during the 2013 North Dakota Class B state wrestling tournament on Feb. 14 at the Fargodome.2 / 2

The motto for the Hettinger-Scranton wrestling team is “You work hard, you practice hard and you wrestle hard, when you step onto the mat it’s time to get paid.”

The Night Hawks’ hard work is paying off. And in a big way.

Hettinger-Scranton has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Region 4, which gives the team an automatic bid to the North Dakota Class B state dual tournament.

However, this time around, the Night Hawks want to prove their worth at the state tournament. During the past two years, Hettinger-Scranton has come up empty in the hardware department of the state dual tournament.

“We always set our goals high,” Hettinger-Scranton head coach Randy Burwick said. “We want to make sure that we are always contending for that Region 4 championship, getting ourselves into the state dual tournament and competing for a top-five finish at the state tournament. If this team really shows up to wrestle, we have a really good shot being in the top five. It’s going to take a full-team effort though.

“In the last three years, we’ve been 0-2 at the state dual tournament. That has to end. It really does.”

Despite the team already making it to the state tournament, Burwick said the wrestlers can’t get comfortable. The individual part of the Region 4 tournament is on Feb. 8 in New Salem.

Yet, before the Region 4 tournament, the Night Hawks have a triangular today with Beulah and Bismarck St. Mary’s. The triangular is what Burwick is telling his team to focus on.

“Our main goal focus right now has to be Beulah and St. Mary’s,” he said. “I know it is easy to say, but the kids are looking forward to the postseason and the state tournaments. I’m preaching that we are going one match at a time.”

Hettinger-Scranton has a mix of veterans and inexperienced wrestlers.

Senior Christian Hughes, who is ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds, placed sixth at last year’s state tournament. The Night Hawks’ other returning state placer from last year is Colbey Steeke, who finished seventh. Steeke has since moved up a weight class from 182 to 195, but Burwick hasn’t seen a decline in performance.

Hughes has high expectations for his senior season. He wants to close out his high school career with a state championship. He knows and reiterates his coach’s message about keeping his mind set on the very next opponent.

“I worry about now before later, because if you don’t worry about now, you can’t get to where you want to,” Hughes said.

The other three seniors for the Night Hawks are heavyweight Brandon Ehlers, 182-pounder Denby Lueck and Trevor Abrahamson, who competes at 138 pounds.

“We’ve gotten the younger guys to work pretty hard,” Lueck said. “Some days it’s tougher than others, but we get them to go.”

Burwick said he has been extremely pleased with how the underclassmen have been performing this season.

“This is one of those years that I’ve really been looking forward to,” Burwick said. “The kids are good wrestlers. We have some young kids in the lineup that stepping up and doing a good job. We entered the season not really sure how the lineup was going to shake out, but really turned out to pretty nice.”

One wrestler Burwick hopes to have back before the Region 4 Tournament is junior Kevin Sandgren, who is recovering from an ACL injury during football season.

The state tournament begins Feb. 13 at the Bismarck Civic Center. Burwick can see the highly productive state tournament if all the wrestlers have the correct mindset.

“The biggest key is that we have to mentally get ourselves ready,” Burwick said.