Beginning tomorrow, Alex Bambic will be on the largest stage in wrestling. But the Desert Vista High School grappler has been there before, so it’s only slightly intimidating.
Bambic is part of Team Arizona that will be competing at the world’s largest wrestling competition, the ASICS/Vaughn Junior Nationals and Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Every summer in Fargo, they throw down 30 or so mats in the enormous Fargo Dome and let nearly 4,000 kids from 50 states and Puerto Rico compete for a national crown in three different styles of wrestling: freestyle, Greco-Roman, and folkstyle.
Bambic is a heavyweight who earned All-American status at Fargo last year in both Greco-Roman and freestyle, which comes with finishing in the top eight places. As a freshman last year at Desert Vista, he finished in fifth place at 215 lbs. at the state championships. But his performance at the western regionals in Idaho last month earned him that event’s Outstanding Wrestler distinction.
Teammates Robbie Mathers, Ace Martinez, and Cooper Gardner are joining Bambic this year in Fargo. Mathers will wrestle in the Cadet division at 119 lbs. and Gardner at 130; Martinez competes in the Junior 152. Mathers was the 5A-I state champion at 112 last year and Martinez took home a third place.
All four should be motivated by another Arizona wrestler’s success in Fargo. Ryak Finch from Safford High School won the Greco-Roman and freestyle titles last year as a junior.
Not a big surprise, since Finch is a three-time state champion at 119 lbs. and ranked No. 1 in the country in his weight class in his senior year. But a motivation nonetheless.
Team Arizona has also set the bar pretty high last year when it finished in the top five in competition for the Junior Greco-Roman Wells Fargo Cup.
High school wrestlers are generally not too familiar with Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. The ‘folkstyle’ division is the one that follows high school rules. In freestyle, wrestlers don’t choose to start on top or bottom since everything begins with a face-off instead, there are no stand-ups, and the competitors are allowed to lock hands. In Greco-Roman, the wrestlers can use their legs in offensive and defensive moves.
Some of the other local wrestlers representing Arizona include: (Cadet division) Seth Monty from Mountain View HS and (Junior division) Max Mejia from Chandler HS, Shane McGough from Desert Mountain HS, Daniel Mendoza from Westwood HS, and Sam Fulton from Corona del Sol HS.
The Cadet division is for wrestlers 15 and 16 years old, and the Junior competitors are those in grades 9-12 and include both boys and girls.
The event runs through July 24.