State a familiar site for Night Hawk quartet

For Hettinger senior Codi Tomac, anything less than a regional championship was “totally unacceptable.”

Rodney Vanhoff, a senior, won the 152-pound division.
Rodney Vanhoff, a senior, won the 152-pound division.

Posted Feb. 14, 2013

By EDDIE HIBBS III

Pioneer Publisher & Editor

 

For Hettinger senior Codi Tomac, anything less than a regional championship was “totally unacceptable.”

A defending regional champion from a year ago, Tomac was the first of four Night Hawks to leave Bowman Saturday evening as the top in his weight class, winning the 126-pound division in the Class B Region IV Wrestling Tournament.

“You just have to be confident in yourself and know what to do,” Tomac said shortly after his championship match. “It also takes a lot of heart.”

Tomac entered the tourney as the top seed in his weight class and he didn’t disappoint. In the semifinals, he pinned Coleton Jore, a sophomore from Watford City, in 1:35. And while the championship match went the distance, Tomac wasn’t really challenged in a 9-4 decision over New Salem-Almont freshman Cullen Seeger.

While Tomac was the first to capture a regional crown, he was just the sparkplug to help ignite three more championships for his teammates. Following with regional championships for the Night Hawks were:

* Christian Hughes, a junior, who won the 145-pound weight division;

* Rodney Vanhoff, a senior, who won the 152-pound division; and

* Brandon Ehlers, a junior, who won the 285-pound division.

For Tomac, this week’s entry into the Class B State Wrestling Tournament is certainly nothing new for the senior.

This will be the sixth time he’s qualified, dating back to his first year as a member of the varsity wrestling squad as a mere seventh-grader.

Tomac shared a good portion of his wrestling success to the Night Hawk coaches, including head coach Randy Burwick, a member of the North Dakota Wrestling Hall of Fame and a former national champion in the college ranks.

“The coaches believe in us and push us,” Tomac said. “They make us want to be great and push us to want to be on the top of that podium.”

Tomac is 32-11 on the season and has several major accomplishments so far this year, including the Hettinger Classic champion. In 2011, he placed seventh at state and is a five-time regional finalist. Still, there is still one thing left for the senior to accomplish this week.

“I plan to be at least a state semifinalist,” Tomac said.

Though a grade younger, junior Christian Hughes has a career similar to that of Tomac. Hughes was also a member of the Hettinger varsity wrestling squad as a seventh-grader and has made the state tournament each year.

For Hughes, the path to the “Big House” was not quite as easy for him as it was for Tomac this season. Hughes suffered a broken hand during football season and was out for roughly half the wrestling season.

“I was a little concerned at first, particularly missing as much of the season as I did,” Hughes admitted.

But when it mattered most, Hughes delivered.

The No. 1 seed in his weight class as well, Hughes received a bye into the semifinals, where he pinned Ty Horning of Beulah-Hazen at 4:59. He followed that up with a pin of Troy Steele of Bowman County at 2:51 in the championship match.

The championship match accomplished two goals for Hughes. One was a personal goal – the regional crown. The second was to ensure the team title.

“We couldn’t let Bowman beat us in the team standings,” Hughes said.

The Night Hawks would capture the team title with an impressive 218.5 points. Bowman County finished second with 173 points. Third place went to Beulah-Hazen and Watford City with 147 points each.

Hughes placed fifth at the always tough East-West Tournament at New Salem during the regular season.

He knows he can do better at the highest stage in prep wrestling in North Dakota. Two years ago, Hughes placed second at State.

“I do have high expectations,” Hughes said. “I kind of lost my focus at the East-West Tournament. I definitely think I can be up there (on the podium at the state tournament). It’s good to be back on the mat.”

VanHoff moved to North Dakota two years ago, and with his qualifying Saturday, he made it to the state tournament both years.

Like Tomac, Hughes and Ehlers, he was also the top seed entering the regional tournament. He received a first-round bye to the semifinals, where he pinned Curtis Summer of Bowman County. In the championship match, he scored an impressive technical fall, 18-1, against Sonny Herczeg of Beulah-Hazen.

Like Tomac, he enjoyed championship glory at regionals a year ago, but didn’t place at State. This year, he was the Hettinger Classic champion, placed second at the East-West Tournament and was third at the Linton Lions Tournament.

“I’m planning on placing high (at State),” VanHoff said.

The “big man” for the Night Hawks, a year ago Ehlers placed fourth at regionals to qualify for the heavyweight division at the state tournament. This year, he won both his matches at regionals to claim the championship. He won his semifinal match with a pin at 18 seconds against Kyle Bolken of Watford City. In the championship match, he pinned Mac Stuber of Bowman County at 2:37 for the final match of regional action.