Century senior Ogden turning into stellar senior season
For some, an undefeated record is a blessing. For others, it’s a curse.
For senior Rei Ogden of Century’s girls wrestling team, it’s a signal of exactly what she is: the student leader of the program.
“She will be a hole that’s hard to fill next year,” Century girls wrestling coach Baron Blanchard said. “She’s the team mom; she takes care of the team, she’s a fantastic leader, the girls love and respect her.”
The past two weekends, Ogden kept her record perfect with nine wins, all of which were pins, at the rumble on the Red and Bismarck Rotary tournaments, earning first place at both.
“Two-peating was definitely the goal for me when I learned we were going to the Rumble and the Rotary again,” Ogden said. “It feels fantastic, but I wouldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
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It’s the second straight year Ogden has won titles at Rumble and the Rotary. She accomplished the feat last year as well, winning the two tournaments at 130 pounds. This time around, she got the job done at 120 pounds.
“Getting into bigger tournaments, getting used to this environment, can be shell-shocky to some people,” Blanchard said. “Then it’s just wrestling. She’s focused on the task at hand and continues to perform.”
While girls wrestling has only been sanctioned for two seasons, Ogden came in with more experience than most.
“She started wrestling in eighth grade,” Blanchard said. “She was competing with the boys teams before girls teams were sanctioned. She improved by leaps and bounds last year with Coach Knowlen.”
Century entered the season behind Legacy and Bismarck in numbers, so Blanchard has been working hard on recruiting.
“We did some heavy recruiting, we shook the middle school tree hard, so we have a lot of first-year wrestlers,” he said. “They’re progressing nicely. I want to keep doubling the team every year. Some parents are leery about letting their daughters wrestle, especially with the stigmas around weight management, but the NDHSAA has steps in place to keep weight management safe and doable.
“If a girl tells me they want to wrestle but their parents don’t, I ask them to have their parents call me to talk with them.”
The team’s youth means Blanchard relies on the team’s elected leaders, Ogden and sophomores Morgan Harvey and Paige Spomer, to lead the way.
“They all wrestled last year, and they were involved over the summer,” Blanchard said. “They are in here, they’re vocal, they’re leading by example. Most people quit wrestling because of the month of January, but these girls are the cheerleaders for the team.
“This time of the year is where that leadership really comes out, and those three are doing their parts to bring everybody along.”
The decision to drop from 130 to 120 was a decision made by both Ogden and Blanchard, in large part to help fill out a Century lineup.
“Rei came down from 125, with her descent plan we wanted her to drop to 120,” Blanchard said. “It was a decision by us both to help fill some weights.”
Ogden has handled the drop adroitly.
After going 34-6 last season, including tying for the highest finish among Century girls wrestlers with a third place at state, Ogden’s record now sits at an unblemished 23-0.
“It’s a confidence booster, being undefeated,” Ogden said. “I’m doing better now than I did last year, and being undefeated motivates me to work harder in the room.”
Pins have been Ogden’s finish of choice. She is not much a fan of extending matches longer than they have to be.
“There are wrestlers that let their opponents up to get more of a takedown,” Ogden said. “I’m not that kind of wrestler. I’m a one-and-done, get on the mat, if you’re better than me, you win, if you’re not, that’s how the match rolls.”
All nine of her wins at the Rumble and Rotary have been by pin. She’s won in as little as seven seconds, but also went nearly five minutes against Aitkin, Minnesota’s Madelyn Strohmayer at the Fargodome.
“Mat time is definitely a good way to see how your season is going,” Ogden said. “(Trista Gessler of Tri-City United), my semifinal opponent in Fargo, she was tough and gave me a run for my money.”
Wrestling at 120 pounds, Ogden faces wrestlers with a variety of experience levels, body types, and ages.
For example, Ogden’s championship opponent at the Rotary, West Fargo United’s Shayla DeBlaere, had several inches of both height and arm length on her.
“If they have long arms, it’s all in the legs,” Ogden said. “If you’re strong and quick enough, you explode into it. You shoot through the arms. If they have good defense, you have to have better offense, you have to keep moving through it.”
Despite the size disadvantage, Ogden had an idea of what DeBlaere was bringing before the whistle even blew.
“I judge my matches with handshakes,” Ogden said. “How well they shake hands (tells me a lot). It’s all in the handshake; I work off of what (my opponents) give me.”
Ogden’s match with DeBlaere wasn’t perfect.
Ogden earned a takedown and a three-point near-fall in the first period, but got caught out of position and allowed DeBlaere to counter-attack late to earn a reversal.
“I picked my head up for about five seconds, then looked down to look at the shoulders, then I got rolled through,” Ogden said. “It’s something I have to keep working on, my number one problem is my head is always down, so I have to be looking up.”
Ogden deferred and DeBlaere picked bottom position to start the second.
Century’s lone champion went with a tried and true finisher to ensure DeBlaere wouldn’t be able to do anything else.
“I did the classic half-nelson,” Ogden said. “Pushed her head down, kept it down, then levered my way through. You can’t go wrong with a good half-nelson.
“She had me on the head there for a bit, and she has a good sprawl. She’s a great opponent, and I would love to wrestle her again. DeBlaere’s the one to worry about (later on in the season).”
Blanchard agreed on DeBlaere’s quality as an opponent.
“That was a fantastic match,” Blanchard said. “DeBlaere is a fantastic young wrestler. Only great things can come from that. If that’s a precursor for what the state tournament will be at 120 pounds, it will be a dogfight.
“It was a fantastic match, both wrestlers stayed in good position, and it was just fun to watch.”
With such different opponents she can face, Ogden focuses on what she can control.
“It’s all offense,” she said. “If they shoot, it’s your offense on their offense. If I don’t shoot first, what am I doing wrong? I always have to be going, have to be going.
“I’m aggressive, I’m quick on the head, and I stick to what I’m good at, then I work on what I need to work on in the room.”
Even with it being her senior season, Ogden is working hard at cleaning up little problems with her technique.
“I’m working on the small things to get to a bigger goal,” she said. “I want to get into my shots, take more shots, change up my style a little.”
With the talent shown both in Ogden’s weight class, Blanchard is excited about what is coming later in the season.
“This has probably been one of the harder tournaments,” he said. “There’s been a lot of hard matches, a lot of upsets, and I think both the Rumble and the Rotary are good precursors for what’s coming.
“Every year, the skill level of the girls that are placing is leaping. It’s hard wrestling on both sides of the mats, both the boys and girls side. I think some of our girls would do fine on the boys side, they would have done well over there.”
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