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DAY 3 NOTES: Hutchison sister and brother seek national titles

FARGO, N.D. - This winter in Alaska there was some big news in wrestling. The Hutchison wrestling family grabbed the headlines, and the story went national.

Michaela Hutchison, a sophomore, won the state high school championships at 103 pounds, becoming the first girl to ever win a state wrestling title wrestling against boys. At the same time. Eli Hutchison, a senior, won his fourth straight state title and finished his career undefeated. Their father, Mike, the USA Wrestling state chairperson in Alaska, coaches the kids and was there along with them in their achievement.

"It felt very good. My brother has taught me everything I know. It was fun to win something like that with him," said Michaela.

"I kind of knew she could win if she wrestled well, and she wrestled very well," said Eli. "Most of the pressure was pushed off on her, so it was not so bad for me."

Michaela's achievement ran on the national wire services and was mentioned in Sports Illustrated and in other major media. An intense spotlight was on the family, but especially on Michaela.

"There is not as much now. It was crazy for my brother and I for awhile," said Michaela.

For father Mike, who is proud of both of them, it was a little difficult seeing so much attention on just one of his two amazing children.

"Sometimes it is difficult to see one kid get recognized more than another. I understood it was a historic event for Michaela. But so was Eli's fourth state title. In the past, she won three Junior High titles and was named Outstanding Wrestler three times. Part of the reason she got the OW awards more than Eli was because she is the girl," said Mike.

"It is a bit hard not to see Eli get the recognition. Eli takes it so well. They are so close as brothers and sisters. They really support each other and encourage each other. They are good friends," he said.

The Hutchison children are competing in Fargo this weekend, both seeking their first Junior Nationals title and hoping to have similar success as they experienced at the state championships this year. Michaela is in the 119-pound division in the women's event, and Eli is competing at 135 pounds in the Junior Greco-Roman division.

Eli will be attending Boise State in the fall, where his goal is to win a NCAA title and be an All-American at least two times.

"It will be hard on Michaela when Eli is gone to college," said Mike. "He has a lot to do with her success, as much or more than I do. He is always rolling around at practice with her and teaching her things."

The children, very polite and soft spoken, give their father much of the credit for their success.

"He is a good coach for us. He's been around it a long time, going back to my older brother. He is not quiet. He talks a lot, but it is good talking," said Michaela.

The Hutchisons share a similar experience from last summer in Fargo. Both made the gold-medal finals at the Junior Nationals and both lost, taking second place. Eli was in the Junior National Greco-Roman finals, where he lost 9-8 to Adam Frey of Pennsylvania. Michaela was beaten in the 110-pound finals by Caitlyn Chase of Illinois by a 10-0 score.

"It wasn't fun to get beaten in front of the huge crowd," said Eli. "I set my goals to work harder, get better and win this year."

Mike knows both athletes think about last year's final match, but they have a good perspective about it.

"It is something that drives them. Nobody at this tournament is happy with second. It is not something they dwell on. They make it a motivator. My kids don't spend a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves," said Mike.

Both have won age-group national titles before, Eli on the FILA Junior level and Michaela as a FILA Cadet. They have not yet won them side-by-side. But this could be another historic occasion if these athletes meet their goals for the weekend.

"We don't talk about it," said Michaela. "But it is always our goal to wrestle our best and that is what we want to do here."

Gruenwald makes return to Junior Nationals

Two-time Olympian Jim Gruenwald was among the coaches checking out the action on the 23 mats on Monday morning at the FargoDome.

Gruenwald is now the assistant coach for Greco-Roman at the U.S. Olympic Education Center program at Northern Michigan. He's checking out future prospects for the now-thriving USOEC program.

"This is a huge recruiting trip for us and we are trying to get these kids exposed to our program up at Northern Michigan," Gruenwald said. "There are a lot of good Greco kids up here. I'm impressed with what I've seen. The numbers are real good, which is encouraging. The turnout is real good.

"We want the Cadets to know that we exist, so by the time they get to their junior and senior year all they are thinking about when they come out of high school is wrestling in our program as opposed to going to an NCAA school. We want blue-chip Greco guys to be thinking about the USOEC and Northern Michigan University."

Gruenwald said he was attending Junior Nationals for the first time since he wrestled in this event for Team Wisconsin in 1988. The event was held at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in those days.

"It's neat to be back here for the time after wrestling here almost 20 years ago," Gruenwald said. "Coming back is pretty neat and it brings back a lot of good memories from when I used to compete here."

Gruenwald said the young athletes have adjusted well to the new rules that put a heavy emphasis on using the reverse lift from the par terre position.

"It's difficult as much as FILA changes the rules," Gruenwald said. "I think the kids are doing fine with it. It's almost getting to the point where if they ever did keep a consistent set of rules for a long period of time the Greco community might get uncomfortable with it. The kids are young and they learn fast and adapt to the situations. You don't necessarily have to use the reverse lift. You can still go to the gut-wrench and score a bunch of points."

Among the kids Gruenwald is impressed with is New York's Chris Iorio, who placed third at Junior Nationals at 125 last year. Iorio won his first matches at 135 in the Junior Greco-Roman class.

"One of the kids we recruited, Chris Iorio, is just rolling through people," Gruenwald said. "He's wrestled a couple of tough kids and I've been really impressed with him."

It's been a banner year for the USOEC Greco-Roman wrestlers with Spenser Mango winning a World University Championship this year and Chas Betts earning a silver medal. USOEC resident-athlete Harry Lester also made his second U.S. World Team on the Senior level.

The USOEC program has been around for seven years.

"There always is a continual push for our program to improve and to look for that next Greco star out there," Gruenwald said. "Our guys are doing an awesome job and making good progress. Ivan (Ivanov, the USOEC Greco-Roman head coach) has done a great job and we complement each other well. It's exciting to be a part of."

Sweet Cataline: World Team member looking impressive in women's freestyle

Jackie Cataline is among the elite Senior-level women's wrestlers who are competing in the Junior women's freestyle competition in Fargo.

Cataline, who just finished high school and is competing for Team California, took second at 63 kg/138.5 pounds at the U.S. Nationals this year and followed by taking third at the U.S. World Team Trials.

Cataline is competing for the first time in Fargo. She is wrestling at 138 pounds. She rolled to wins in her first three matches Monday, including a 12-second pin.

"This is a real big tournament and I'm excited to be up here competing," Cataline said. "I've been working really hard since I lost at the Trials. This is a good chance for me to work on my moves and keep gaining experience."

Cataline placed third at the World Team Trials after losing to Alaina Berube in the finals of the Challenge Tournament. Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann then swept Berube in the best-of-3 championship series to qualify for the World Championships.

"I want to be up where Sara is," Cataline said. "I beat Alaina before and she came back and beat me. I need to get through her before I can get another shot at Sara. I just started wrestling freestyle last year so I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement. I'm young and I'm still learning and maturing."

Junior women's freestyle numbers are similar

There are 176 Juniors entered in the women's freestyle competition this year. The number increased by one wrestler from last year.

The women's competition opened Monday morning. This is the fourth year for the women's division - open to girls in grades 9-12 - in Fargo.

Coming Up: Day 4 will be packed with more wall-to-wall wrestling action

The tournament will reach the midway point following a busy session that is on tap for Tuesday.

The day will start with Session IV of the Junior Greco-Roman competition from 9 a.m. to noon. The women's freestyle finals will be held at the same time.

The Junior Greco-Roman finals are set for 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the women's freestyle duals rounding out the day from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
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