More than two dozen wrestling mats are in constant use from morning to night, as this year’s Fargo Nationals shines a spotlight on high school wrestlers from around the country – and Arizona has sent a larger-than-usual contingent to compete with the nation’s best.
The event, officially called the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet Nationals, is being held through July 24 at the FargoDome on the campus of North Dakota State University. This will be the 42nd anniversary of what is generally regarded as the world’s largest wrestling competition, with 2,200 high school wrestlers arriving from all 50 states.
For high school wrestlers, it is a chance to test themselves against state champion-level competition from around the country in a unique, “big tournament” atmosphere.
Competitors qualified by finishing in the top three of their weight classes at one of the six regional tournaments that were held in the spring. Once they get to Fargo, the competition in each weight class is extremely tough, compounded by the fact that there are so many wrestlers in each class.
There are often more than 150 competing in any one class. The top eight wrestlers earn All-American distinction.
Team Arizona usually carries more than 40 athletes. This year, according to a list published by the East Valley Tribune, there are a total of 60 wrestlers from Arizona who will be competing at the Cadet and Junior levels. The Cadets are those 15 and 16 years old, while the Junior division features competitors in grades 9 through 12.
And there are two styles offered at the event, freestyle and Greco-Roman. High school wrestlers are used to “folkstyle” wrestling and are generally not as familiar with freestyle and Greco-Roman. In freestyle, wrestlers don’t choose to start on top or bottom, since everything begins with a face-off; in Greco-Roman, wrestlers can use their legs in offensive and defensive moves.
Last year, Team Arizona had its best success in the Junior division of Greco-Roman, where the squad finished 16th, picking up nine points from Kory DeBerry‘s third-place win at 152 pounds and the sixth-place finish by Robbie Mathers at 125.
In the Greco-Roman competition, Team Arizona wrapped up at No. 18 in the Junior competition behind a fourth-place finish by DeBerry and a sixth from Logan Addis, who also competed in the 152 weight class. The rest of the team’s 11 points came from a seventh place at 112 pounds by Trey Andrews and an eighth place by Javier Guillen at 105.
A fifth-place finish from Kamden Krum in the 91-pound class in the Cadet competition gave Arizona a 24th-place finish in that division.
This year, Team Arizona will be looking for support again from Mathers and Andews, who will return. Mathers, who just graduated from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, was one of six wrestlers from across the country to be invited to spend a year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Andrews, from Safford High School, is a four-time state champion at 120 and finished his senior season, 56-1.
Garrett Ryan, a double FILA Cadet national champion, will also be competing at the Junior level. Ryan, the Arizona state champion at 170 pounds at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, will be competing in Fargo at 220 and later will represent the United States at the Aug. 21-27 FILA Cadet World Championships.
The other notable at Fargo is Alex Bambic, a two-time state champion at Desert Vista High.
Also competing at the Junior level for Team Arizona this year: Brandon Acevedo (113 pounds); Gabriel Cobb, Christian Masters, Will Olivas at 120; Marcus Begay, Caleb Radley, Glenn Farina, Ryan Vandall, Rafael Lopez at 126; Ryan Gallo and Isaac Camarillo at 132; Raul Moraga, Cooper Gardner, Steven Mason, Luis Nunez at 138; Dalton Moran and Seth Monty at 145; Victor Haro (152); Samson Imonode and Payton Vermeesch at 160; Nic Wise (170); Tristen Ezell (182); Andrew Flath (195); and Gilbert Rivera, heavyweight.
(Photo: ASICS/Vaughan Nationals/ Jeff Beshey)