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Hettinger-Scranton senior Steeke hungry for state championship

Randy Burwick's initial instincts did not betray him. Hettinger-Scranton senior wrestler Colbey Steeke has been coached by Burwick for six years, but it didn't take long for the Night Hawks' head coach to see his potential. "With Colbey, from the...

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Hettinger-Scranton senior 220-pound wrestler Colbey Steeke, right, faces off with Watford City senior Jake Belland in a Region 4 dual Jan. 28 at Scranton High School. (Parker Cotton/The Dickinson Press)

Randy Burwick’s initial instincts did not betray him.

Hettinger-Scranton senior wrestler Colbey Steeke has been coached by Burwick for six years, but it didn’t take long for the Night Hawks’ head coach to see his potential.

“With Colbey, from the time he started, I knew there was something special with him,” Burwick said. “He had - he has - a desire to be the best and a work ethic to go along with it. I knew that right out the gate when he was a seventh-grader.”

Steeke, ranked as the No. 1 220-pound wrestler in Class B, has lost just two matches all season - both by a single point, and both to out-of-state opponents.

He returns to the North Dakota state wrestling tournament at the Fargodome for the sixth time starting Thursday. Steeke is in search of an individual state championship - he placed fifth at 220 pounds last season - and a team championship for the Night Hawks.

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“I never thought as a younger kid that it would have come this fast,” Steeke said of his senior year. “If we came home with two state titles, that would be a dream come true. It would mean all the work as a team and individually has paid off.”

Burwick said it’s well within Steeke’s reach to accomplish just that.

“I think what Colbey’s decided to do is be more aggressive, take more risks and be confident in that,” Burwick said. “He’s got 100 takedowns this year, which is impressive for a 220-pounder. We needed to have that to be able to go and break open matches.”

Part of what has made Steeke said made him so successful in his wrestling career - he placed fifth at state as a sophomore 195-pounder and seventh at 182 pounds as a freshman - is an unrelenting work ethic.

“I push myself extremely hard at practice. I hold myself at a standard above everybody else, and I expect the same from the other kids,” he said. “My goal going into the season was to go undefeated. After those losses that I took, I stepped back and had to collect my thoughts and say, ‘I gotta get back on the right page.’ I stepped up my level even more. What I learned from those matches, that’s helped me excel as a wrestler and as a person.”

Furthermore, Steeke is driven by a desire to pay homage to his little brother Calvin, who died at 4 years old in an ATV accident on the family’s farm a week before Colbey was set to compete in the team’s region tournament. Colbey was in eighth grade at the time, and he has carried Calvin in his thoughts - and onto the mat - every day since.

“He would come to practice with me every day with a bright smile and brighten everybody’s day,” Steeke said. “Before every match, I point up to the sky for him. I know that he’s with me every step of the way. He’s with me whenever I succeed or whenever I fail.”

Burwick said Calvin could often be found running around the wrestling room and in the front seat of the team bus on road trips. He was special to the entire team.

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“I think Colbey wrestles the way he does to honor his brother because he didn’t get the opportunity to wrestle,” Burwick said. “He’s done his brother proud.”

In the final days leading up to his last state tournament appearance, Steeke said there’s not much he plans to change in terms of his preparation.

“Essentially, these last two to three weeks, you’re not going to develop any superpowers or new skill,” he said. “It’s all about refining what you have. The best thing I can work on is maybe mental toughness.”

Included in that process is being mindful of past experiences.

“Last year, I was upset in the quarterfinals, and I’ve had to learn from my mistakes,” Steeke said. “I was winning in the quarterfinal match by one (point). I never opened up completely. Now, I’m going to go out, and I’m going to dominate for 6 minutes. Whatever happens after 6 minutes happens, but I’ve got to stick to what I’ve done all year. And I think at the end I’ll be at the top where I should be.”

Burwick, who coached Steeke through four years of varsity football as well, said he’s losing a tremendous leader and exceptional wrestling mind once Steeke graduates. But until then, Burwick expects Steeke to put on a show at the Fargodome.

“I’m going to miss the hell out of him,” Burwick said. “But I get the opportunity to see him wrestle one more weekend, and it’s going to be a blast to see that. … To win a state championship, he’s not going to hold anything back. He’ll put forward his best effort, and no matter what, in the end, he’s always a champ.”

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