Berger signs with Bison

Hermiston senior Curtis Berger (top) has signed a national collegiate letter of intent to wrestle at North Dakota State University. The Fargo school is a NCAA Division I competitor in the Western Wrestling Conference. The Bison has had 80 wrestlers become All-American during the 53 seasons the program has existed.

Hermiston senior Curtis Berger can cross one thing off his to-do list before graduation: finding a college.

The two-time Class 5A wrestling champion has signed a national letter of intent to join the team at North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D.

Berger, who won the state title at 189 pounds last season in a 3-2 thriller over The Dalles Wahtonka’s Jake Abrams, said he was surprised with how nice the NDSU campus looked when he visited.

“I’ve been there before for nationals, but I didn’t really look around that much,” he said. “When I visited and actually looked around, they’ve done a nice job with the facilities. It’s nice to have all the things you need to help you.”

With the nice place to play also comes the prestige of the program, and NDSU is one of the most successful in the nation. The school has spent most of its time in NCAA Division II, where the wrestling team has claimed four national championships, the last coming in 2001. Now, four years into NCAA Division I competition in the Western Wrestling Conference, Berger said another thing that attracted him to the school was its commitment to always becoming better.

“They hold themselves to a high standard,” he said. “They are building the program to be in the top 20 in the nation.”

Berger’s future coach, Bucky Maughan, and his staff initiated contact with him, he said.

It’s quite the honor to even talk with Maughan, considering his resume: 47 years as the head coach at NDSU, overall record of 457-153-13, four national titles and over 150 All-Americans.

Berger will join the Bison next fall and will wrestle against some of the nation’s top competition in the WWC, including colleges like Northern Iowa, the Air Force Academy, Wyoming and South Dakota State.

“You look at their schedule and they are scheduling top competition,” he said. “That’s another reason I wanted to go there. I’m going to wrestle the best.”

He said the coaches are looking for him to wrestle at either the 184- or 197-pound weight class. Appalachian State in North Carolina and South Dakota State also showed interest in Berger.

As for his studies, Berger isn’t sure exactly what he wants to major in at NDSU. He said he’s going to take his time and do general coursework until he figures out what they have to offer him academically.

The senior will now focus on this season for the Bulldogs, wrestling at 189 pounds again. He’s glad he was able to get this decision done and over with, so he can turn his attention to not only the wrestling season, but the classroom as well.

“I can go into this season and not have to worry about it,” he said. “I can focus on this season and my academics now.”

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