Promoting Bemidji Wrestling

Rance Bahr and Bemidji Girls’ Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

Rance Bahr is the most successful wrestling coach in Bemidji High School history. He has been in the Bemidji area, the Bemidji school system, and the Lumberjack wrestling program nearly his entire life. He could have coached the boys’ wrestling team for as long as he wanted. When it boils down to it, professionally, Bahr wants nothing more than to promote and grow the sport of wrestling in the community.

During the offseason, after fourteen years as the head coach, Bahr felt the best way to promote the sport in the area was to step away – well – not away – more like over a few steps. He decided to become the head coach of the girls’ wrestling team.

“I have a passion for Bemidji wrestling,” Bahr said. “When we started the program, it never occurred to me to become the girls’ head coach and discontinue being the boys’ head coach. It was an opportunity to promote Bemidji wrestling. When people were putting up roadblocks, that motivated me to push harder (to get a girls’ program). I am thankful to those people that put up those roadblocks because, without that, I might not have been so motivated.”

“My son recently graduated, and I was looking at getting out of coaching wrestling,” the first-ever Lumberjack girls’ head wrestling coach continued. “With my daughter on the girls’ side and things going well there – I feel I have done what I am able to do with the boys’ program. It is in a good place, and I want to see the girls’ program improve. We are ranked in the nation, and the girls are excited about that.”

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Lumberjacks split boys and girls, Greg Skerik and Rance Bahr take over

BEMIDJI – The list of impactful Bemidji High School wrestling figures is long, so it’s no surprise the Lumberjacks returned to the well to stay at a high level.

The winningest wrestler in BHS history accepted the boys head coaching position starting in 2023-24. Greg Skerik amassed 211 victories before graduating in 2006. The four-time state individual participant and two-time state medalist will replace Rance Bahr, who resigned after 14 seasons.

“I’m from Bemidji, and I’ve been a part of this (wrestling) program for close to 30 years,” Skerik said. “It’s always kind of been a position I wanted, just more of a timing thing with Rance. He’s done a great job for so long. I worked with him when he first started coaching high school. Whenever Rance decided it was time to change things up, I was hoping things worked out on my end, and I’d be in a position to apply.”

Bahr isn’t going anywhere. Shortly after his resignation, he applied for the newly created girls wrestling head coaching position at BHS. In an effort to provide more resources for the largest high school girls wrestling program in Minnesota, Bahr was named Bemidji’s first girls-specific wrestling head coach in school history. Continue reading at →

Willmar Cardinals get back to state dramatically

Daunte Castellano’s pin at 285 lifts Willmar past Bemidji 33-25 in the 8AAA final

BRAINERD — Daunte Castellano was flying high.

The Section 8AAA wrestling team championship came down to the 285-pound match with second-seeded Willmar holding onto a slim 27-25 lead against top-seeded Bemidji. It was unfamiliar territory for a heavyweight on a team where team wins and losses are usually determined before he goes on the mat.

Castellano’s night nearly ended in disaster as Thomas Paquette got the Cardinals’ junior in a near-fall.

“I was kind of scared when he got me on my back like, oh no, I don’t know what to do,” Castellano said. Continue reading at →

The Main Event – Bemidji and Mora Make History

By Brian Jerzak

As far as we can figure out, on December 2nd, Minnesota high school wrestling history was made at Bemidji High School. The Lumberjacks’ wrestling team hosted a triangular with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Grand Rapids. The Lumberjacks’ grapplers rolled to two comfortable victories – winning by over forty points in both duals. However, that was far from the main event.

“There was a lot of excitement in the gym,” Bemidji head wrestling coach Rance Bahr said. “During our dual with DGF – one of my wrestlers – Seth Newby (ranked 5th at 170 pounds in AAA by The Guillotine), leaned over and said, ‘Coach, we are the JV dual tonight.'”

Newby felt like the 7th ranked team in AAA was on the undercard for a good reason. Bemidji’s newest high school team was making its debut.

“Everyone’s eyes were on the girls’ match,” Bahr said about the Bemidji versus Mora girls’ dual meet. “That side of the gym was packed. Everyone was screaming. We were even looking over there to see what was happening.”

Continue reading →