Beckstrand takes over as Firebird mat mentor

Ray Maloney, Sports

As a farmer in the Lake Region Justin Beckstrand has struggled in recent weeks to finish crop planting as wet and cool weather has hampered those efforts.

He’s hoping his attempts to lure more athletes to the Devils Lake High School wrestling program goes smoother.

Beckstrand was announced earlier this week as the new mat coach of the Firebirds.

“He’s proven his knowledge of wrestling and he works well with the young people in the program.” said Devils Lake Public School Superintendent Steve Swiontek in formally making the announcement of Beckstrand’s hiring. “Plus, he is committed to increasing the numbers of wrestlers in the program.”

Beckstrand replaces Josey Ness, a former three-time state champion, who coached the Firebirds for just one season.

Beckstrand is a 2000 graduate of Devils Lake High School and placed second at the state meet in his final high school match when he was defeated by Mandan’s Elijiah Simburger in the title tilt.

Beckstrand ended the year 33-9.

Beckstrand, who farms in the area, attended Lake Region Christian Academy until transferring to Devils Lake High School midway through his freshman year and taking up wrestling for the first time.

“Wrestling wasn’t an option at LRCA,” Beckstrand said.

Despite his late start in the sport the new Firebird coach still received offers to compete collegiately. After entertaining offers to compete at Concordia College and North Dakota State University, he decided to focus on academics and received a degree in agricultural systems from NDSU in 2005.

He sees the need for more numbers in his program.

“It’s a problem we’ve had for quite some time,” said Beckstrand, who is planning on meeting with the Devils Lake Park Board, the DLHS wresling boosters and the Shooting Starzz program to help lay the foundation for greater success.

“We’ve got to get more youngsters involved and keep them involved,” Beckstrand said.

He is also planning on meeting the other coaches at the school and making sure athletes are in the sports they need to be to achieve their top potential and talents.

Beckstrand doesn’t plan any wholesale changes to the philosophy of wrestling at DLHS.

“The program was a joint effort,” he said. “As coaches last year we were all on board with out approach ... if there are changes they will be subtle.”