Peterson: Moenkedick key in Cobbers' No. 6 rank

During the spring of his senior year at Perham (Minn.) High School, Phil Moenkedick was having second thoughts about his decision to go to Concordia to wrestle.

Cobbers' Phil Moenkedick
Concordia senior wrestler Phil Moenkedick has thrived in the Cobbers' Division III program after initially having second thoughts about competing for them out of high school. Forum file photo

During the spring of his senior year at Perham (Minn.) High School, Phil Moenkedick was having second thoughts about his decision to go to Concordia to wrestle.

He wanted to take a closer look at Division I North Dakota State, where his older brother, Kenny, was already a wrestler.

Moenkedick called up Cobbers head coach Clay Nagel to tell the coach he was getting cold feet about going to the Division III Cobbers. Nagel, who had recently had neck surgery, got proactive.

"He showed up in one of my classes in high school with a neck brace and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes," Moenkedick said with a laugh, recalling the scene. "Clay was on me from the start. I just felt Clay was a little bit more loyal."

Now a Concordia senior, Moenkedick's decision to stick with the Cobbers has worked out for both sides. Moenkedick won a D-III national championship last season at 184 pounds. Moenkedick headlines a stellar senior class that has helped turn Concordia into a national contender.


Concordia is ranked No. 6 in the latest Division III coaches' poll, the highest ranking ever for a Cobbers wrestling team.

"It was a big deal for us," Nagel said of landing Moenkedick.

While Moenkedick has the national title, he isn't the lone big deal among the seniors. Moenkedick - with a 106-10 career mark - and two other fellow seniors are on pace to break the school record for career victories.

Justin Berns, a 157-pounder from Perham, has a 108-35 record with the Cobbers. Ben Anderson, 141-pounder from Frazee, Minn., has a 95-38 career mark. Concordia's school record for career wins is 124.

"They're so talented," Nagel said. "We thought that before they finished at Concordia that they would do some great things."

Ross Dankers (174), Todd Reynolds (133) and Nick Nadeau (285) are the other seniors on the roster and have all played a role in helping the program reach new levels of success.

Dankers and Berns were both All-Americans last season.

"It's not all about just one or a few people," Berns said. "It's been a whole group of people, a couple classes in a row that can all get credit for that."


However, this senior group has been special.

Both Moenkedick and Berns felt Clay was the main reasons they decided to go to Concordia. The Cobbers wrestling program was struggling when Nagel joined the staff in 2004-05 as a co-head coach before taking over the program solely the next season.

Having wrestled in high school for Perham, Berns and Moenkedick saw the success Nagel had at nearby Frazee High School over 19 seasons.

"We knew Clay knew how to win and we just all bought into the fact that if we all stuck together and did the right things, the team was going to continue to improve and go places," Berns said. "We kind of had the feeling that he was going to be able to build a winner here."

These seniors have proved to be a big part of that foundation.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson's blogs can be found at

Related Topics: WRESTLING
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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