Competitive spirit: How two cousins share brotherly bond for baseball, competition

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FARGO – Brayden Wolfgram’s excitement was more than exuberant. 

It was expected. 

The sophomore infielder for the Thompson Tommies had more than enough reason to show positive emotion. After all, Brayden and his team went on to win the 2022 NDHSAA Class B Baseball State Tournament, 11-7, over the top-seeded LaMoure-Litchville/Marion Loboes on June 4. 

North Star's Jack Ahlberg (left) and Thompson's Brayden Wolfgram (right) are cousins.

Of course, Brayden’s completive spirit didn’t solely show during the tournament finale. During Thompson’s opening game of the tournament against the North Star Bearcats, Wolfgram had the opportunity to face off against his cousin: Jack Ahlberg. 

Although the Bearcats could not pick up a win during the state tournament – North Star lost to Thompson, 13-3, on June 2 – Ahlberg still had the opportunity to show off his competitive spirit, too, even if his family member hoisted the trophy when it was all said and done. 

Of course, the pair’s history started well before the 2022 tournament slate. 

“We hang out a lot, and we’ve played baseball since we were very young kids,” Ahlberg said. 

Brayden’s dad, Jon, didn’t need any reminder. After all, he has seen the two connect in more ways than one over the years. Jon’s wife, Alicia, is the sister of Jack’s mom, Renae Ahlberg. 

From watching the pair grow up and play backyard baseball together, Jon has seen Brayden and Jack form a close relationship. 

“They have always been tight,” Jon said. “They are kind of two of the older boy cousins on the Wirth side, so they have kind of always hung out together, and they have always gotten along great. Any time they are around each other, [it] doesn’t seem like there are any concerns or issues. They get along [well], and I think the fact that they share a lot of the same passions...They both enjoy basketball as well and baseball. Being only two years apart, or a year apart, they have just grown up together.” 

While they certainly had a history away from the baseball diamond, the cousins, ironically enough, never played each other in a varsity sport before their June 2 contest. 

If anything, the June 2 bout was another opportunity for the two to show off their talents to others and, more importantly, each other. And so, the game gave each cousin a chance to flash the second-base leather and hit for contact against their respective opponent. 

Brayden Wolfgram and the Thompson Tommies won the Class B Baseball State Tournament on June 4.

“This was my first time seeing him [Jack] play in a while,” Brayden said. “This was our first time playing each other in any sport, basketball or baseball. So, I guess we haven’t really talked about seeing each other without seeing each other very much, but yeah. We are both 6-7 hitters [and] second base for two teams, so we probably could bounce some ideas off each other, being the same person, almost.” 

“We are both pretty good infielders,” Ahlberg said. “We are contact hitters, I’d say. So yeah, we are pretty much the same person, honestly.” 

While the similarities might be present on the baseball field, the two still show their differences. But, to Jon, the tenacious spirit between the two cousins will only improve their relationship. 

North Star's Jack Ahlberg has helped provide a consistent offensive jolt in the middle of the Bearcats' batting order.

“I think they are both competitors,” Jon said. “I can guarantee they both came into this game wanting to win, maybe for some bragging rights back at the lake this summer…I think once the dust settles after today, they’ll be just fine. They’ll continue to get along great as cousins, but they are both competitive, so you can tell.”

With summer now underway, Brayden and Ahlberg will continue to build on their relationship during family weekend get-togethers at Wood Lake. Whether it be baseball, basketball or surfing (a new hobby the pair will look to try out this summer), the two will have the opportunity to log another fun summer for the books. 

And who knows – perhaps surfing will give the two another avenue to show off that competitive spirit. It will be expected, anyway. 

“I don’t know,” Brayden said. “We are both pretty good at wakeboarding, and what I’ve heard, wakeboarding and surfing are pretty similar, so I think we’ll both be pretty good. He’ll [Ahlberg] probably be better at the tricks.”  

Consider it another opportunity to build up the bond. 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.