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Press Photo by Dustin Monke
Dickinson State junior Brad Steele, left, wrestles against teammate Nestor Ruelas in the 149-pound championship match of the Blue Hawk Classic wrestling tournament Jan. 14. The Beach native is 33-8 with 19 pins this season.
Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson State junior Brad Steele, left, wrestles against teammate Nestor Ruelas in the 149-pound championship match of the Blue Hawk Classic wrestling tournament Jan. 14. The Beach native is 33-8 with 19 pins this season.

Opponents are falling into Steele's trap: Beach native Brad Steele is approaching Blue Hawks' single-season pins record

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Blue Hawks Dickinson, 58602

Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Brad Steele was about as a raw as a college freshman could get.

Sure, he was a high school state champion. But his practices were always much different than his peers.

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His senior year at Beach High School, Steele won the 2008 North Dakota Class B state championship at 125 pounds.

Steele did so despite having few others in his practice room and hardly any other Buccaneer close to his weight class -- with the exception of 130-pound champion Damien Berger his senior season.

"If I did wrestle people back home either they were new guys or bigger than me, so you just kind of shrug it off either way," Steele said.

When Steele arrived at Dickinson State, he found a room full of state champions and placewinners.

He also discovered the typical pains of being the young guy in the room full of seasoned college wrestlers.

"I used to get frustrated in the room, just getting beat up by guys," Steele said.

Fast forward four years and Steele has the No. 1 seed in the NAIA North Group national qualifying tournament, which is Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa.

He is ranked eighth in the NAIA and has a 33-8 record.

"He's come a long ways from shadow wrestling," DSU head coach Thadd O'Donnell said.

Steele is having the breakout year O'Donnell envisioned him having sometime during his career.

He has 19 pins, putting him well within reach of DSU's single-season pins record of 21 set in 2006 by three-time 197-pound national champion Justin Schlecht.

Steele has only the North Group tournament and the NAIA national tournament, for which he is already qualified, to break the record.

The abundance of pins, he said, comes from tweaking his style while also having a little luck.

"I've gotten to a point where I wrestle the way I want to wrestle again," Steele said. "I've got into a weight class that's a little better for me and am just trying to keep the matches close and make them wrestle my style instead of theirs.

"I just learned to get heavy on top, let them make the mistakes. I've gotten good at catching them more than anything else."

O'Donnell said Steele has become a more mature wrestler since arriving at DSU but has kept the intensity that makes him tough to beat.

"He just goes. He's a goer," O'Donnell said with a smile. "It's fun to watch him. In the past, he's got himself in trouble because of the antics that he does. Now, he's stronger, he's more confident. He can wrestle his way out of some pretty weird situations."

Pat Tangen, a DSU redshirt freshman from South Heart who wrestled for Dickinson High School, often matches up with Steele in the practice room and said he has already learned much from his new colleague.

"It's all about work ethic with Brad," Tangen said. "That's what he's all about. He's always pushing everybody in the room. He's pushing me, I like working with him because he's always pushing everybody."

O'Donnell said Steele's performance this season has instilled a confidence in him that he hasn't had since he his high school career.

"He wrestles hard, the whole time," O'Donnell said. "Now that he's got confidence. He wrestles hard and guys just break on him and he gets the pin. He's become a good pinner. Once you start getting that, it just kind of builds on it. He's done an excellent job."

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