STEELE’S CURTAIN: Unorthodox style has been trademark of Beach native, who wraps up his DSU career this week

Brad Steele has never been the most orthodox wrestler on a mat.

In fact, he has thrived on being exactly the opposite.

“You talk about a funky style, he would be the king of funk,” Dickinson State head wrestling coach Thadd O’Donnell said with a smile. Steele, who came to DSU out of Beach High School a half-decade ago as a North Dakota Class B state champion, looks to wrap up his wrestling career in style this weekend as he leads the No. 3-ranked Blue Hawks into the NAIA national tournament Friday and Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

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COLLISION COURSE: No. 1 Beulah and No. 3 Trinity seem destined to meet again for title, but underdogs aren’t afraid to bite back

All winter, the question has lingered throughout southwest North Dakota.

“Who do you think is going to win Region 7 boys basketball tournament, Beulah or Dickinson Trinity?”

We could be five days from finding out that answer.

Or, who knows? An upset of classic proportions could be set to play out on the Knights of Columbus Activities Center floor during this week’s tournament.

Still, any way you slice it, the Region 7 Tournament goes through the No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Beulah. With many of its main components back from last season, the Miners are undefeated at 21-0 and on a 37-game win streak dating back to Jan. 10, 2012, when it lost to Trinity in the regular season. The Titans want to be the team that doesn’t let that streak reach 40.

It has been four years since anyone other than Beulah or Trinity represented Region 7 at the state tournament and there are six teams in this tournament who don’t plan on being the proverbial red carpet to the Minot State Dome for either team.

District 13 champion Heart River is chief among them. The Cougars upset Beulah in the 2011 region semifinals before losing to Trinity in the title game. In 2012, their season was cut short again by the Titans — this time in the semifinals. With a senior-heavy group that has been building to this week for three seasons, Heart River sure isn’t going to back down without a fight. Neither will Mott-Regent or Hazen, for that matter.

The District 13 runner-up Wildfire are led by senior guard Taylor Zentner, Region 7’s leading scorer at 21.3 points per game. Hazen, the No. 3 seed behind Beulah and Trinity in District 14, follow one of the state’s best all-around athletes in senior guard Stetson Carr. And don’t forget the underdogs. New England and Richardton-Taylor each have seven seniors on the roster and each boasts one of the region’s best scorers.

Raiders junior Lane Voltz (19.2 points per game) and Tigers senior Levi Hollinger (19.1) have ranked among the top five scorers in Region 7 much of the season.

Hettinger-Scranton has just two seniors — including difference-making center Stephen Kristy — and a talented group of underclassmen that have quietly improved throughout the season to a point where they are relied upon to take the reins in the clutch.

Whether Trinity and Beulah tip off for the title Thursday night or if a dark horse finds a way to stick its nose into the mix, this season’s Region 7 Tournament is bound to be memorable.
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AN EARNED CAREER: John Hanstad’s success at DSU built on work ethic, leadership

Dickinson State senior guard John Hanstad shoots on Dec. 5 against Rocky Mountain College at Scott Gymnasium.

John Hanstad was certain his days of playing organized basketball had ended at Dickinson High School.

Though he had planned to attend Dickinson State University, Hanstad was not convinced he had what it took to suit up for the Blue Hawk men’s basketball team.

“I remember sitting in the hallway outside the office, talking to John and saying, ‘Hey, give it a try. You never know what’s going to happen,’” DSU head coach Ty Orton said.

Five years later, Hanstad is preparing to wrap up a career in which he has become his team’s most trusted leader and, along the way, cemented himself as one of DSU’s all-time leading 3-point shooters.

Hanstad wraps up his surprisingly successful five-year career at DSU this week as the Blue Hawks host the University of Great Falls (Mont.) at 7:30 p.m. today and Montana State-Northern at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Scott Gymnasium. The team’s season ends Saturday since they are out of the race for the top six spots in the Frontier Conference and will be left out of the league’s postseason tournament.

Though he would have liked his senior season to have lasted longer, Hanstad said there’s a silver lining in being able to end his career on DSU’s home court.

“It’s definitely better than being on the road,” Hanstad said. “That’s what I was telling my dad yesterday. It’s going to be fun to have the last two here at home.”

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Hollinger a quiet star for New England

New England guard Levi Hollinger, shown Jan. 6, 2012, during a game against New Town at the New England High School gymnasium, was never the Tigers boys basketball team’s first option until this season. As a senior, he is averaging 19.4 points per game as he tries to lead the Tigers back to the Region 7 Tournament.

When Levi Hollinger moved to North Dakota in the fifth grade, he said he didn’t even like basketball. It took his new classmates in New England to convince him he should try playing.

“Everybody wanted me to go out, so I tried it and it worked out good and I loved it ever since,” Hollinger said.

Today, who knows where the Tigers would be without him?

Described by teammates as a dedicated and relentless player, Hollinger has been the engine driving the New England boys basketball team this season.

For two seasons, he was a role player behind the trio of Kaine Hanson, Clarence Binstock and Nick Wolf and, while on teams that were momentarily ranked in the Class B poll and won the District 13 championship in 2011, was never regarded by opponents as the player they had to stop.

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GRUNT WORK: Senior Isiah Binstock quietly averaging a double-double for No. 3-ranked Titans

Dickinson Trinity senior Isiah Binstock is self-sufficient on the basketball court.

Most plays go through him, but only few are run with him as the primary option to score.

Instead, the 6-foot-3 forward gets many of his points through hard-work beneath the basket.

“The thing I like is he does all the grunt work,” Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said. “When you have a kid like that, he doesn’t need to shoot the ball. He’ll get his on the offensive end. That’s why he’s averaging a double-double right now.”

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DSU mulls forming new conference: League eyeing Blue Hawks would consist of 4 former DAC schools, Presentation College

After less than one school year in the Frontier Conference, Dickinson State officials are mulling a move that would send its athletic programs to a proposed league consisting primarily of its former Dakota Athletic Conference rivals.

Kurt Patberg, a consultant representing five schools, contacted Dickinson State in late January to gauge the university’s interest in creating a new NAIA conference made up of teams in North and South Dakota.

DSU President D.C. Coston and athletic director Tim Daniel said Friday that the school is carefully examining what Patberg and the schools he represents have to say.

“We have to look at this,” Daniel said. “This affords us some opportunities to maybe address some problems that we are experiencing right now.”

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Hansen leads DSU offensively, but also plays big role on defense

Dickinson State senior Jarek Hansen isn’t a type of basketball player who can be easily categorized. Hansen has steadily increased his output each of the three seasons he has been with the Blue Hawk men after transferring from Williston State College.

He is averaging 10.6 points and three rebounds per game while shooting 89 percent from the free-throw line and 39 percent from 3-point range, all of which are by far the best marks of his collegiate career.

“My role has changed every year,” Hansen said. “My sophomore year, I was expected to bring a spark off the bench when the time was there for me. Last year, I got put in a starting role right at the beginning of the season and was expected to put some points on the board, score for us and play hard, tough defense as well.”
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