BISMARCK, N.D. (BVM) — Six years ago, if you had told Christian and Wilfried Tanefeu that they would be two of the best wrestlers not just in North Dakota, but the entire country, they wouldn’t have believed you.
Part of the reason is they wouldn’t have understood you, at that time their family had recently immigrated to the United States from Cameroon. The other thing is, they really didn’t know that much about wrestling.
“If I’m being honest I didn’t think I would be wrestling my senior year. I just thought it would be something I do in the winter,” Wilfried said. “It just grew on me.”
Wilfried can remember when he was in eighth grade and came home asking his dad if he should try wrestling. His dad asked what wrestling was and they proceeded to Google it, finding a bunch of stuff about the WWE. They laughed and Wilfried began wrestling.
Christian didn’t join wrestling until the following year as a freshman at Bismarck High School. He was originally playing basketball, but made the switch early into the season.
Both boys knew they were not that good at the time, but they also were extremely competitive.
“I was starting to get hungry for wins,” Christian said.
Wilfried was the same way.
“It was just something I kept working at,” Wilfried said. “I wanted to get better so I stopped losing. I want to be remembered. That’s what drives me.”
They both began working tirelessly to improve. Their competitiveness drove them to be better; to put the work in.
“That’s when wrestling grew on me,” Christian said.
The boys fell in love with the work they put in but it wasn’t just that. They loved everything about wrestling.
“When I started wrestling, the family aspect of it was incredible,” Wilfried said.
They also loved that although they were on a team and were trying to win as one, there was a huge individual aspect to wrestling. It is different from other team sports.
“One of my favorite things about wrestling is it’s all on you,” Christian said. “You can’t make excuses, it’s all on you. You win, it’s on you. You know you got there with the help of other people but there’s no excuses when you lose.”
The twins learned quickly. Fortunately for them, the Demons are arguably the best high school wrestling program in North Dakota. They have won six of the last seven state championships at the NDHSAA Class A level.
The great program they joined combined with their determination to be better allowed the twins to win their first individual state championships during their sophomore year — Christian at 106 pounds and Wilfried at 113.
They followed that up with wins at the 2019 USMC Cadet and Junior National Championship in the summer. Christian won the Greco national championship at 106 pounds and Wilfried won the freestyle national championship at 113 pounds.
It was after these two national title runs that colleges began taking notice of the twins from Bismarck. Add to that their second state titles in a row after last season and coaches were very excited to reach out to the twins.
They began receiving interest from programs all across the country and although they weren’t planning on it, they ended up choosing the same school.
So proud to announce the Tanefeu twins have verbally committed to Michigan! So excited for what the future holds! #dreambig @umichwrestling @BisHighStudents @BisStuSection @BhsHiherald @Tanefeu_c @Slick_Willy113 pic.twitter.com/lEr4zW31En
— Demon Wrestling (@bhsdemonwrestle) September 9, 2020
The Tanefeu twins will wrestle for the Michigan Wolverines. As immigrants, they liked the diversity at the University of Michigan. Their high school coaches also had a relationship with the coaches at Michigan, which helped them connect better with the program.
Another reason is both Christian and Wilfied have aspirations to wrestle at the international level representing either the U.S. or Cameroon. They are uncertain which they will end up wrestling for, but they’re working that out with their coaches.
In the meantime, they’re focusing on finishing their high school careers at Bismarck with third consecutive individual state titles.
“We’re going to keep doing what got us to this level and we’re going to keep working to get better,” Christian said.
They will also continue to be grateful for what the sport has done for them.
“For me wrestling changed my life,” Christian said.