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Rodriguez battling a language barrier

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson High sophomore Brian Rodriguez, right, looks toward his coaching staff for directions as he wrestles Logan Gumke of Watford City during the Dickinson Classic on Dec. 20 at DHS gymnasium.

Winning a varsity wrestling match is complex.

Add a language barrier between the wrestler and the coaching staff, and odds of winning become more complex.

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On top of it, the odds of the wrestler making the North Dakota Class A state tournament are slim.

Dickinson High sophomore Brian Rodriguez, who moved here from Guadalajara, Mexico, and speaks predominantly Spanish, made those slim chances a reality after placing eighth at 126 pounds during the West Region Tournament on Saturday.

“I’ve received a lot of help from the coaching staff and that helps a lot,” he said through a translator, Dickinson junior wrestler Jose Dimas. “I’ve been learning more English. I’m happy because the team accepts me.”

Dickinson co-head coach Adam Orton, who is from Evanston, Wyo., and wrestled at Dickinson State, said it’s been a tough task, but a rewarding challenge.

“It’s been tough,” Orton said. “He’s got a lot of potential and he’s a very talented athlete.

“It’s been a ride. I’ve never seen anything like this. When I was in high school, we never had a situation like this. When I was in college, we had guys from California who could speak both English and Spanish, but never one that couldn’t speak English. It’s a learning experience for the coaches and the athlete.”

Luckily for Rodriguez and the coaching staff, Dimas can translate.

Dimas, who is qualified for the state tournament at 145 pounds, said it has been a unique opportunity helping a teammate with more than just practice.

“It’s kind of good, because Brian doesn’t know much English,” Dimas said. “I’ve just been helping every day from the beginning of the year.”

The 2013-14 season is Rodriguez’s first year in the U.S. He wanted the opportunity to play football and his father had previously lived in Dickinson, so the Rodriguez family moved north to the U.S.

When Rodriguez entered the wrestling room for the first time, he was a little hesitant. However, Orton and the rest of the coaching staff saw a special talent right away.

“Wrestling is very particular in some aspects — getting the right details of each move,” Orton said. “He has a ton of natural ability. He can throw kids around because he’s strong and quick.”

With the language barrier and lack of wrestling skills, Rodriguez wrestled a majority of the season at junior varsity. He got most of his varsity experience during tournaments.

One of those was the West Region Tournament, where Rodriguez wrestled unattached for Dickinson and qualified for state.

Rodriguez isn’t going to be alone on his journey the state tournament beginning Thursday at the Bismarck Civic Center. The Midgets qualified 15 individuals and their entire dual team.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “This is my first year and I get to go to state.”