Blue Jay wrestlers represent Buffalo City on national stage

·6 min read

Jun. 28—JAMESTOWN — When you are looking to recruit the top-talent in North Dakota prep wrestling, you don't have to look much further than the Buffalo City.

Aden Braun along with Colton Mewes and Hannah Sjostrom, all soon-to-be seniors for Jamestown High School head wrestling coach Larry Eslick, were all asked to wrestle for Team North Dakota in the Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 15-18.

"They asked me to come because I won the North Dakota Triple Crown award," Braun said. "They asked me to wrestle for Team ND at 138. I was really excited and was glad to accept. I was the most qualified 138 pounder so I didn't have to wrestle off anyone for the spot."

Triple Crown winners are wrestlers who win a North Dakota High School State Championship, NDUSAW Freestyle State Championship, and an NDUSAW Greco-Roman State Championship in the same year.

Braun took down Minot's Victor Garcia in the 138-pound, 2022 Class A State Wrestling Tournament finals to claim the first state title of his career in February.

Following his junior prep wrestling season, Braun got back to training for football and summer wrestling.

This year marked Braun's first year wrestling for Team North Dakota, but he said he's always wanted to because he enjoyed wrestling for Team North Dakota in his younger days. Both of his older brothers, Zane and Noah, competed for North Dakota when they were in high school.

"Summer wrestling is a lot more competition out of state," Braun said. "It is mainly just freestyle and greco, which are the Olympic styles. Most of the tournaments are national tournaments, which include the best from each state. Summer wrestling is very fun in addition to helping me become a better wrestler."

"Wrestlers become a part of the Junior National Dual Team by being selected by the Team North Dakota Coaching staff," Team North Dakota Cadet and Junior Director Luke Mellmer said. "This team only competes in the summer. It is the only dual team in the state that is sponsored by North Dakota USA Wrestling."

Mewes said typically to qualify to compete for Team North Dakota an individual has to win a state title in either folk style, freestyle or Greco. If the champ can't make it to the tournaments the spot goes to the second-place finisher and so on.

Mewes won the 160-pound state title in February.

While the team only competes in the summer, the competition may be even more intense than the November through February schedule.

"Summer wrestling is harder," Mewes said. "Usually kids want to hang out and do nothing over the summer so it takes some dedication and hard work to wrestle during the summer.

Mewes said he's been asked to wrestle for team North Dakota before but in past years the state 160-pound champ couldn't participate because of family obligations. But that hasn't kept him from dreaming about it as he's wanted to be a part of the team ever since his older brother wrestled for Team North Dakota his senior year.

"I think these tournaments where different states bring their best and you bring your best is a great experience and learning for all the wrestlers involved," Mewes said. "It's great for making yourself better and more experience."

Team North Dakota only competes in two tournaments during the summer — the Junior National Duals and the Fargo Nationals.

Mewes said he would be wrestling with Team North Dakota in the nationals but due to obligations with football and school he will not be competing.

Later on this summer, Braun might be attending Fargo Nationals for Team North Dakota as long as it doesn't interfere with his training for football, part-time job and having fun with his friends heading into his final prep athletics season.

"Summer wrestling helps me become a better wrestler and shows me how I perform against kids across the entire country," Braun said. "My goal for this tournament is to compete with the best and have a winning record for each style. I would like to acquire new skills heading into my senior year, so I can repeat on winning another state title."

"Competing on Team ND provides our wrestlers with the highest level of competition you can receive at the high school level," Mellmer said. "Competing at Junior National Duals gives the wrestler around 15 to 20 matches in the matter of four days."

Mellmer said Team North Dakota had a one-week Junior Duals Camp before they headed to Tulsa for the Junior National Duals. Mellmer said the team also has a two-week long camp prior to the Fargo Nationals in July.

"Aden and Colton bring a ton of experience to team ND," Mellmer said. "They have been wrestling all their lives and are state champions. You can't ask for much more."

Braun said in greco the Team North Dakota squad took seventh in the second-to-last pool while in freestyle the guys pulled out a first-place finish in the last pool.

Both Class A and Class B wrestlers are on Team North Dakota. The lineup consists of 9-12 graders.

The girls have their own division. Jamestown's Sjostrom represented the Blue Jay girls team down in Tulsa at the national level.

Sjostrom placed third in the 190-pound bracket at the first-ever North Dakota High School Activities Association sanctioned state meet in February.

Team ND took notice.

"Team North Dakota has an open invite for the best wrestlers in the state. We want every ND Class A or B high cchool state champion to reach out and register for Junior Duals," Mellmer said. "However, sometimes it doesn't work that way. If we cannot fill a lineup of state champions, our coaching staff works hard to recruit the ones that are willing to compete in the summer."

Sjostrom said one of the head coaches for Team ND contacted her father to see if she wanted to participate in summer wrestling. The soon-to-be high school senior said the experience has been lots of fun and that she has made a slew of friends along the way.

"Wrestling has taught me to be more confident in myself," Sjostrom said. "If you keep at something and work hard enough you can improve and get better."

The North Dakota girls team took second in the yellow-green bracket. There were five states competing in the bracket. Team ND defeated Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan and North Carolina. Idaho took home the championship hardware.

"Participating in this event shows I am willing to put the extra effort to do the hard work and go the extra steps to improve myself," Sjostrom said. "This experience is preparing me for next year's wrestling season by showing me one what I still need to improve on to make myself better."