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'Heaven gained a champion': Bison wrestling recruit from Kansas dies from apparent heatstroke

Dodge City (Kan.) High School's Damian Mendez died on Sunday from apparent heatstroke Sunday, his high school wrestling team announced via social media.

North Dakota State wresting recruit Damian Mendez.
North Dakota State wrestling recruit Damian Mendez died, Sunday, July 3, from apparent heatstroke, his high school wrestling team announced via social media.
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FARGO — North Dakota State wrestling recruit Damian Mendez died Sunday, July 3, from apparent heatstroke, according to the Dodge City (Kan.) Red Demon wrestling page.

He died after a run, according to KSN-TV in Wichita, Kan.

Mendez was a three-time state wrestling champion who graduated from Dodge City High School last spring. Mendez's family told KSN-TV that he was wearing a sweatsuit Saturday.

Mendez signed with NDSU last March. He was set to the join the Bison in the fall and major in sports management.

"With a deep sense of sorrow, we announce the passing of Damian Mendez," NDSU wrestling wrote on its Twitter account Tuesday. "He was a tremendous wrestler, but we were more excited to welcome such a bright young man to our campus and into our family this fall. We ask for prayers for Damian and his family during this difficult time.

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Mendez went undefeated during his junior and senior seasons in high school and capped both with state titles. He also won a state championship in 2019 during his freshman season and finished second at state as a sophomore.

"We love ya kid you’ll never be forgotten," Bison head coach Roger Kish wrote on his Twitter account.

“God wanted him with him — no matter what, it was his time, and God needed him,” Lizette Garcia, Damian’s mother, told KSN-TV.

Red Demon Wrestling posted the following on its Facebook page Monday:

"Heaven gained a champion last night. Damian Mendez passed away late last night due to (heatstroke). He is probably challenging all the angels to some grind matches right now," wrote Dodge City wrestling coach Tate Lowe.

During his senior season, Mendez set the Kansas high school state record for most takedowns in a season.

“It is a time of sadness for Damian and his family, as well as our Bison family and the wrestling community,” Kish said. “At this time, we just ask for support and prayers for his family and friends in such a difficult time.

"He was such a bright young man and certainly made an impact on our coaching staff and his Bison brothers. He will be truly missed by those that knew him.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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