Ax Henningsen was done with wrestling.
He closed out an impressive season by placing third at the State Class AA Championships last month and figured it was time to think about taking his baseball skills to the collegiate level.
So when he signed a letter of intent on Monday to become a student-athlete at Dickinson State University, he did so as a baseball player — and a wrestler.
It turned out that wrestling had a grip on Henningsen that he was unable to shake. Every time he thought he had wrestled his final match, the memories of his strong senior season crept back into his mind.
"I would have been willing to give one up," Henningsen said. "It would have been wrestling if I had to choose. I never really thought about wrestling at college. I thought I would be done after this season for sure. I never thought I would go any further.
One thing that kept wrestling at or near the forefront was that North Dakota's University of Jamestown had been interested in Henningsen the baseball player. They just never followed up on their pursuit of him.
That opened the door to Dickinson State and its wrestling room.
Butte High coach Cory Johnston wrestled at Dickinson. Johnston also wrestled with Justin Schlecht while at Dickinson. Schlecht is the current wrestling coach at Dickinson.
"About the second week of the season when I saw Ax's style of wrestling, it really reminded me of Justin Schlecht, who I wrestled with all five years there," said Johnston, who took over the Butte program this past season. "They wrestled really similar so I got a hold of Justin and said, 'I've got a kid that you might like. He does some of the same things that you do.'
"Justin kind of took it from there and I just made sure that (Ax) knew that it was an option."
Henningsen knew that he wanted to play baseball at Dickinson but with Blue Hawks wrestling now an option, he started to rethink his plans.
The idea of doing both was brought up during discussions with his parents, Rich and Amie. A deal was finally struck last week when he agreed to go with both sports. The reward for his tough decision was his mother's OK on his getting a tattoo.
"I told my mom I would sign the letter to Dickinson if I got a tattoo," Henningsen said. "She said, 'That's good. I'll even pay for it.'
"I would have signed anyway. I was just throwing that part in there."
The wrestling program at Butte High gained some momentum with the arrival of Johnston. The former Ronan High School coach is hoping that Henningsen's decision will set a level for other Bulldog wrestlers to strive for. Several wrestlers who will return to the Butte program have already shown the potential to follow in Henningsen's footsteps.
"He's the first kid out of this group to go on to college and wrestle, and it's to the place that I wrestled in college so it's even more special," Johnston said. "It's pretty exciting."