Denfeld News

Oct. 24, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Former Hunter finds a home on Bemidji defense
By Jon Nowacki

Bemidji State football coach Jeff Tesch used to tease former Minnesota Duluth football coach Bubba Schweigert about 2005 Duluth Denfeld graduate Bryan Wick, and Schweigert didn’t appreciate it.

That’s because Wick was a local prospect who got away, deciding to attend Bemidji State rather than UMD.

Wick, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound nose guard, has found a home in the middle of the Bemidji defense, which faces a tall task today when the defending NCAA Division II champion Bulldogs visit for a key Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference showdown. Wick, a two-year starter, has helped the Beavers hold teams to just 70 yards rushing and 20 points per game.

“Bryan is a big-frame guy, and coming out of high school, we heard he was good character kid with a good work ethic. You can’t get enough of those kind of guys,” Tesch said. “We were just kind of going on his past history, but everything his coaches were telling us was right on. He’s been everything they’ve said.”

Wick, who helped lead Denfeld to a runner-up finish in the Section 7AAAA playoffs in 2004, was a two-way starter named the Hunters’ most valuable lineman and to the All-North Country Conference team as a senior.

Wick received college interest from Bemidji, UMD, Minnesota State-Man­kato and St. Cloud State. He visited the Bulldogs, but was sold on the Beavers after visiting the campus and meeting the coaches.

“It was no disrespect to UMD. I would never talk negative about them, but Bemidji just felt like a better fit for me,” said Wick, who will graduate with an industrial technology degree this fall. “Bemidji recruited me the heaviest. There were other teams that recruited me, but Bemidji was calling me six days a week. It just seemed like they really wanted me.”

Wick hasn’t disappointed. After redshirting in 2005, he saw immediate playing time the next year. As a sophomore in 2007 he appeared in nine games, and as a starter last season, he had 20 tackles, including three tackles for loss. This year he has 10 tackles, including 2½ for loss and 1½ sacks.

Bemidji runs a 3-4 defense similar to UMD, featuring a lot of blitzing, stunts and movement. Playing nose in that scheme is a thankless job, where the linemen free up the linebackers and safeties to make plays, but it’s a job Tesch said Wick does without complaint.

“The best compliment I can give Bryan is his durability, and that’s one of the best compliments you can give a defensive lineman,” Tesch said. “They’re in the trenches getting clipped, chop-blocked and double-teamed, but for his whole career Bryan has been one of those guys we can always count on to give his best every time out there. That’s what we expect out of Bryan, and that’s what he gives us.”

Wick, who is quick to thank his youth and high school coaches for his development as a player and a person, isn’t a big fan of statistics or talking about himself. All he cares about is winning, and he has experienced plenty of it this year as the Beavers (6-2 overall, 5-2 NSIC) have had a resurgence after having their streak of 10 straight winning seasons snapped last year.

UMD (7-1, 7-0) is ranked No. 2 in the region and Bemidji is No. 10, and the Beavers know a win over the Bulldogs likely would carry them to their first NCAA postseason berth.

“We’re approaching this like a playoff game,” Wick said. “This is the make-or-break point in our season right here. We obviously have a schemed worked out, but it won’t be easy. UMD doesn’t really have a weak spot. They’re just solid all the way through.”

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