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|ROB SHERRILL COLUMN: Six questions to be answered in Fargo this year|
By Rob Sherrill W.I.N. High School Editor
Printed with permission from W.I.N. Magazine
FARGO, N.D. - No, I'm not really writing this column from the FargoDome. However, I hope I'll have given you the flavor - flies and all - of a week in the 72-degree, wind-speed-1-mile-per-hour-east-west-north-and-south world that is the Cadet and Junior National Championships.
Or, to be exact, USA Wrestling's ASICS Vaughan Junior National Championships and Accelerade Cadet National Championships. Be ready for the quiz later.
Of course, if you can answer the upcoming questions correctly, any name - even one this long - will be a snap. At any rate, the answers the wrestlers will provide will be an interesting backdrop for next year's high school scholastic season.
Unlike Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, USA Wrestling has come up with the real mid-summer classic. Held July 20-26 here at the Dome, one of high school wrestling's shrines, perhaps 3,000 wrestlers of high school age will compete on as many as 24 mats to get the best competition possible.
Ready to solve the problems of the wrestling world? Cast your ballots below.
1. What's new this year… and when?
A lot. Notably, the schedule, which has the event ending in midweek - on a Thursday - for the first time in its history.
The introduction of FILA's new competition rules to this event last year reduced the amount of wrestling competition hours so drastically that the Junior freestyle finals were moved up to Saturday morning. This year, they're moved up even farther, giving folks the chance to get out of town prior to the weekend. (Hope that means there'll be a seat left for me, too!)
2. What five states will be the most impressive?
1. New York - yeah, their rules of engagement in-state are archaic. Yeah, they don't have any teams that would be front-liners nationally. Don't let any of that fool you. Individually, New York's talent pool now rivals neighboring states Pennsylvania - yes, Pennsylvania - and New Jersey as far as Beast of the Northeast status is concerned.
This is the state that ran away with the underclass levels at the NHSCA National High School Championships, then turned in a blowout performance at the Northeast Junior Regional, taking home seven Greco-Roman and nine freestyle gold medals as their Pennsylvania and New Jersey counterparts watched enviously. If they could get all those stars on the mat at once at either the Cadet or the Junior National Duals, New York might be the favorite. Instead, Fargo is more likely to be the stage of choice.
2. Illinois - the senior class has enough talent to repeat as Junior National Duals freestyle champion. If they show up at Fargo as well, they could bring home plenty of hardware from the Dome. But, based on last year's disappointing epidemic of senior no-shows, that's a big if. The underclassmen have a long way to go to demonstrate they'll be as successful as their senior leaders have been.
3. California - for pure Junior power, no state may be better. Jason Welch (160) of Walnut Creek Las Lomas High and Hunter Collins (171) of Gilroy High have both championship and OW potential.
4. Iowa - Iowa City West High, which coach Mark Reiland likely will have in the nation's top five next year, has a shot at matching big-boy programs Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward High, St. Paris (Ohio) Graham High and Dallas (Texas) Bishop Lynch High for number of All-Americans. The Trojans have five previous All-Americans on their roster, led by Fargo champions Dylan Carew and Nate Moore - and Moore's younger brother, Nick, just might outshine all of them this summer. But even West needs help to get the Iowans into the team race, which means seniors like Tyler Clark and Jordan Johnson of Bettendorf High and T.J. Moen of Saydel High will have to help out.
5. Missouri - this state is learning a lot about performing when the bright lights are on. Randy Smith and Gary Mayabb will have the Kansas City Oak Park-based Competitors Association ready. Nobody questions the stardom of upper-weight aces Dom Bradley of Blue Springs High and Elijah Madison of Pak Park, Deron Winn of Liberty High, the 215-pounder with 125-pound moves. They'll need the likes of Craig Wilson of Farmington High, Colin Pierce of Kearney High and Tyler Holloway of Brookfield High to elevate their Cadet success to the Junior level to challenge.
3. What five states have something to prove?
1. Oklahoma - even if Junior freestyle champion and All-America teammates Jamal Parks (140) and Seth Vernon (145) don't show, this state has some young stars, including their Tulsa Union High teammate and workout partner, Joey Sheridan (152). Dallas Bailey (152) of Catoosa High and Chris Perry (171) of Stillwater High join Sheridan as front-line sophomores, and junior Grant Daffin (135) of Sallisaw High and Catoosa freshman Ben Morgan (130) also could be successful. Is there any depth behind them?
2. New Jersey - the Shore Gang always measures itself against the 500-pound gorilla to the west, Pennsylvania. But they may need a measuring stick even longer to fend off the neighbor to the north, New York. They'll deny it, but history is clear: As Blair Academy goes, so goes this state under the Dome. And they could go a long way if Bucs' standouts Chris Villalonga (112), Kellen Russell (130), Max Shanaman (135), Mario Mason (140), Eric Medina (145), Corey Peltier (171) and Jared Platt (215) show and finish in the dough. Beyond that, two-time National Prep champion Dan White (125) of Hightstown Peddie School and two-time state champion Scott Winston (160) of Jackson Memorial High are the best bets to help end a couple of years of disappointing showings.
3. Ohio - last year's performance at Fargo wasn't up to their standards, but not many states have lightweight weapons like sophomore David Taylor of St. Paris Graham High and freshmen Logan Stieber of Monroeville High and Jamie Clark of Lakewood St. Edward High, the state's three 103-pound state champions. They'll probably combine for five national crowns - and the reason it won't be six is that Stieber is a freestyle specialist.
4. Oregon - It's difficult to imagine that Tyrell Fortune of Portland Parkrose High could accomplish much more at Fargo after back-to-back double Cadet National crowns. As a state, though, they didn't take a back seat to their neighbor to the north, Washington, last year. We sure wish we could see Portland Thomas Jefferson High standout Norman Richmond (135), who beat Washington-ace Michael Mangrum three times last spring, show his stuff under the Dome.
5. Washington - Richmond aside, few anywhere were as impressive as Mangrum has been the past year. Despite moving up three weight classes this year, to 140, the Junior National freestyle champion was as dominant as ever.
4. How have the new rules affected the tournament?
On the plus side, they've cut down on the amount of time needed to contest the tournament. USA Wrestling has done an outstanding job in recent years running and managing the tournament in terms of keeping sessions short and spectator-friendly. Despite the fact the tournament goes on for an entire week, it doesn't have a marathon feel or quality to it.
But they've created challenges, too. The new rules have made the Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines more drastically different from the scholastic style than at any time in wrestling history as we know it. Anything that reduces the "everyman" quality of the Cadet and Junior Nationals threatens its growth and viability.
That brings us back to an advantage: The Cadet and Junior Nationals still attract the best of the best. That's what the best look for, regardless of the style. And that's why Fargo always will have something unique and important to offer.
5. What are some of the rivalries to watch?
There are so many possibilities, but we'll give you five. Some are very familiar with each other; others have never met. All or none of them could actually take place. Whichever of them do will be worth the price of admission. Some may wind up as more than a two-horse race.
- 119: Tony Ramos, Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North High vs. Jordan Oliver, Easton (Pa.) High - ASICS First and Second Team All-Americans at 112 and 119, respectively, the two met in the Cadet National freestyle meet last year, with Oliver scoring a 2-0 victory. Both have improved significantly over last year. On his feet, Ramos may be the nation's best, regardless of class. But his next score against the two-time Keystone State champion will be his first.
- 145: Medina vs. Alex Meade, Camden Wyoming (Del.) Caesar Rodney High
They've never met, but a potential match-up dominates message boards from coast to coast. Meade was the selection for the ASICS First Team over Medina, who competed most of the season at 152. Some say Medina, despite his No. 1 national ranking, hasn't had a No. 1 season, though we respectfully disagree.
- 189: Clayton Foster, Kamiah (Idaho) High vs. Sonny Yohn, Alamosa (Colo.) High
One questionable second-period call away from the Junior freestyle title last year, Yohn saw the crown slip away as Foster won the final two periods. Their rematch in the NHSCA Senior Nationals title match again was won by Foster, 6-5 with three takedowns. Two-time Illinois champion Jerome Ward of Chicago St. Rita High could join this party as well.
- 215: Platt vs. Cody Gardner, Christiansburg (Va.) High
They've met three times in the past year, with Gardner winning all three by one point, including last year's Junior freestyle final. But they're not the only reason this weight class might be the most intriguing. The addition of Winn, who beat Platt in the High School Nationals semifinals, and Fortune makes this class as dramatic as any.
- Hwt: Atticus Disney, Andover (Kan.) Central High, vs. Steve Andrus, Manhattan (Kan.) High
With all of Ohio's loaded heavyweight crop except Columbus St. Francis de Sales junior John Hiles graduating this year, Kansas becomes the land of the big men as 4A champion Disney and 5A champion Andrus have met in a pair of regional finals, with Disney handling Andrus both times. (Class 3-2-1A two-time champion Duane Zlatnik of Rossville High is just a junior, too.) They'll be joined by two other heavyweights from just across the Missouri River who are neighbors to each other, Bradley and Madison.
6. Will the tournament decide the Asics Wrestler of the Year?
We'll see. As you know, the Wrestler of the Year is not announced until the Junior National freestyle finals.
The three most high-profile candidates are Gardner, who already owns W.I.N.'s Junior Dan Hodge Trophy, four-time Illinois champion Mike Benefiel of Lombard Montini High and two-time New York champion Corey Jantzen (135) of Shoreham-Wading River High, though it's been a couple of years since he's ventured west to the FargoDome.
So… what effect will the Cadet and Junior National Duals have on these observations?
Some…maybe. After all, dual-meet wrestling, regardless of the venue, is a sport of momentum. A lot of upsets take place after your teammates have won four or five matches in a row (an upset win) or after a similar losing streak (an upset loss). That's where the mental toughness aspect of the sport comes in. As we've seen, however, a lot of those results get turned around a few weeks later under the Dome.
Nevertheless, the Duals provide great food for thought when it comes to Fargo expectations. Though some finalists may eventually come from elsewhere, a great tournament field could be put together from the Duals alone.
So, based solely on Duals performance,here are my picks for the Cadet and Junior National finals:
GR, Jacoby Bergeron (MN) vs. Brenan Lyon (MI);
FS, Billy Hagany (NJ) vs. Josh Martinez (WA)
GR, Cody Brewer (MO) vs. Jeff Vesta (KS
FS, Brewer vs. Ronnie Garbinsky (PA)
GR, Rossi Bruno (FL) vs. Damonte Riley (IL)
FS, Bruno vs. Steven Romero (WA)
GR, Cody Tyler (MO) vs. Alan Waters (MO)
FS, Tyler vs. Waters
GR, Destin McCauley (MN) vs. Kent Williams (IL)
FS, Frank Cagnina (NJ) vs. McCauley
GR, Ellis Coleman (IL) vs. Kyle Dake (NY)
FS, Dake vs. Josh Kindig (PA)
GR, Alex Bridgeford (NE) vs. Chris Villalonga (NJ)
FS, Nicky Gordon (PA) vs. Villalonga
GR, Dylan Alton (PA) vs. Zac Bailey (MO)
FS, Alton vs. Austin Ormsbee (NJ)
GR, Andrew Alton (PA) vs. Derek Garcia (WA)
FS, Alton vs. Lee Munster (IL)
GR, John Guzzo (NJ) vs. Kalvin York (WI)
FS, Bobby Barnhisel (IL) vs. Ben Dorsey (VA)
GR, Dirk Cowburn (PA) vs. Mark Stenberg (IL)
FS, Brandon Rolnick (NJ) vs. Tyler Sheridan (CA)
GR, Victor Ascencio (PA) vs. Johnny Urango (CA)
FS, Preston Keiffer (NJ) vs. Craig Kelliher (MN)
GR, Michael Cook (CA) vs. Logan Shirey (PA)
FS, Michael Curby (MI) vs. Michael Evans (PA)
GR, Sterling Hecox (IL) vs. P.J. Tasser (PA)
FS, Ian Daube (CA) vs. Matthew Transue (PA)
GR, Joel Bauman (MN) vs. Max Huntley (VA)
FS, Huntley vs. Brandon Palik (PA)
GR, Alex Polizzi (WI) vs. Reggie Reed (IL)
FS, Dylan Froehlich (IN) vs. Jake McDonald (MO)
GR, Zach Anderson (WI) vs. Nikko Bogojevic (WI)
FS, Bogojevic vs. Evan Craig (PA)
GR, Max Nowry (IL) vs. Cody Pack (CA)
FS, Steven Keith (NY) vs. Nowry
GR, B.J. Futrell (IL) vs. Nathan Gates (FL)
FS, Futrell vs. Ladd Rupp (OK)
GR, Donte Butler (MO) vs. George Ivanov (IA)
FS, Butler vs. Jon Morrison (IL)
GR, Clayton Rush (IL) vs. Zach Sanders (MN)
FS, Andrew Long (IA) vs. Sanders\
GR, Boris Novachkov (CA) vs. Ian Paddock (NY)
FS, Nate Moore (IA) vs. Novachkov
GR, Cody Adams (MN) vs. Pat LaVasseur (MN)
FS, Mark Ballweg (IA) vs. T.J. Wunnicke (WI)
GR, Tyler Holloway (MO) vs. Dalton Jensen (IA)
FS, Collin Marcicki (MI) vs. Matt Mariacher (NY)
GR, Zach Clemente (NY) vs. Cole Schmitt (WI)
FS, Jamal Parks (OK) vs. Max Shanaman (NJ)
GR, Kendrick Sanders (FL) vs. Donnie Vinson (NY)
FS, Kellen Russell (NJ) vs. Albert White (IL)
GR, Esai Dominguez (IA) vs. Shane Nay (MO)
FS, Jake Deitchler (MN) vs. Mario Mason (NJ)
GR, Ben Provisor (WI) vs. Travis Rutt (MN)
FS, Andrew Howe (IN) vs. Scott Winston (NJ)
GR, Grant Gambrall (IA) vs. Paul Paddock (NY)
FS, Mike Benefiel (IL) vs. Corey Peltier (NJ)
GR, Romero Cotton (KS) vs. Brent Haynes (MO)
FS, Cotton vs. Jerome Ward (IL)
GR, Pat Mahan (MN) vs. Deron Winn (MO)
FS, Jared Platt (NJ) vs. Winn
GR, Atticus Disney (KS) vs. Eric Thompson (IA)
FS, Dom Bradley (MO) vs. Tucker Lane (CO)
(Rob Sherrill is one of the top high school wrestling analysts in the country and a long-time columnist of W.I.N. He also publishes the "American High School Wrestling Yearbook". To order a copy, e-mail him at email@example.com.)