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'Freak accident' cuts Berge's run short

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Brady Berge, right, cheers on his cousin Aaron Berge, who was wrestling for the Class AA, 182-pound state championship Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Next to Brady is his older brother Broc, also a former state champion. Brady would have been wrestling for the 160-pound title but broke his leg in the semifinal match.

ST. PAUL -- Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge was on his way to claiming a fourth state wrestling title Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

Then disaster struck for one of the best wrestlers in the country.

Berge was rolling in his 160-pound semifinals match against Luverne's Solomon Nielsen when he heard a pop.

Berge was in the bottom position, and when he tried to escape, his toe caught the mat. He crumpled to the ground.

"I thought it was broke right away," Berge said.

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Trainers examined Berge. He used his full injury time (two minutes) and then attempted to continue the match. But Berge couldn't stand. He gutted it out for another 30 seconds before Kasson-Mantorville coach Jamie Heidt finally called it.

Heidt carried Berge off the mat, and the 8,792 fans in attendance gave Berge a standing ovation.

Upon arrival in the emergency room, Berge's fears were confirmed. He had a broken left fibula.

"They set the bone right away, did another x-ray and they didn't like where it was, so they set it again, which was pretty painful," he said.

Berge's older brother, Broc, who wrestles for the Gophers, spent seven long hours in the emergency room with him. Brady and Broc did make it back to Xcel Energy Center for the championship matches Saturday night, and the crowd again gave Brady a standing ovation.

Brady Berge is the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the country at 160 pounds. Prior to the heartbreaking injury, Berge had won 146 consecutive matches and had a career record of 234-4. In the last two seasons combined, Berge had allowed just one takedown.

Berge was on pace to become the state's all-time leader in career winning percentage. But that won't be possible now after injury defaulting out of the tournament.

"You feel for a young man like that, it's hard not to be emotional about it," Heidt said.

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Berge said it was important for him to return to the arena to support teammates Noah Ryan and Aaron Berge, who is his cousin, as they wrestled for state titles.

"It hit me right away and I was pretty upset," Brady Berge said. "I put in so many hours, all for these moments right here, and for something like this to happen, it stinks. ... Then again, I can be down about it, but what good is that going to do. It was a freak accident. I feel like it can motivate me and maybe teach me more discipline."

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Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge could only sit and watch the state wrestling finals Saturday at Xcel Energy Center after breaking his left fibula in the state semifinals. Next to Berge is his older brother, Broc, who wrestles for the University of Minnesota.

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